19 Jan 2023, 13:44
Edgar Meza

Clashes over village destruction for coal mine damage Germany’s climate image abroad – researcher


The protests against the razing of the village of Lützerath in order to expand the brown coal mining operations of energy giant RWE are damaging Germany’s image and standing in international climate negotiations, Richard Klein, researcher at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) told Table.Media. The climate expert argued that the police action against protesters occupying the village in North Rhine-Westphalia provides further pretext for other countries to insist on a slower pace of transition and their own heavy-handed suppression of civil society. “In general, the world has an image of Germany when it comes to climate protection that is not as good as Germany would like,” Klein said. “It started with the VW car emissions fraud scandal and continued with ongoing debates about the lack of a speed limit and, in general, the complete failure of transport policy from a climate protection perspective." Klein said that while negotiations behind closed doors at this year's UN climate change conference COP28 might not be affected too much, the coal protests could be used against Germany in public debates. "With Lützerath, Germany has given the obstructionists in the climate process ammunition to achieve more for themselves and less for the climate in the negotiations," he said.

Germany's image in international climate policy has generally been good, but lagging progress of energy transition implementation at home is a recurring criticism. "Abroad, there is the view that Germany says all the right things and certainly supports other countries financially to do the right things, but at home it has great problems developing and enforcing the right policies,” said Klein. He added that Lützerath and the expansion of RWE’s Garzweiler lignite surface mine represents, for many in other countries, Germany’s efforts “to maintain a status quo that is stuck in the 20th century. This comes as a shock to many because Germany has long benefited from a leadership in technical excellence and invention and advancement that has placed it among the most technologically advanced countries. Another shock for many abroad is that in Germany, too, there is a polarisation between people who remain in the 20th century and those who want to arrive in the 21st century.” The destruction of Lützerath has also led to condemnation of the Green Party, which agreed to the razing of the village as part of a compromise with RWE to eliminate coal-fired power in North Rhine-Westphalia by 2030, eight years earlier than previously planned.

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