28 Nov 2022, 13:20
Carolina Kyllmann

Climate activists to be evicted from German town next to coal mine in January

Der Spiegel / Clean Energy Wire

Climate activists occupying the western German town of Lützerath to prevent it from being destroyed to make way for a nearby coal mine are to be evicted from January next year, newspaper Der Spiegel reports. Police are preparing to clear out the protest camp in the town early in the new year, the Aachen police department told Der Spiegel. Lützerath, which borders the Garzweiler II opencast lignite mine in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), has become a symbolic battleground for climate activists in Germany but is set to be removed entirely to provide additional power production capacity amid the current energy crisis, the federal government, the NRW state government and energy company RWE announced at the beginning of October. “If Lützerath were to be preserved, the production volume required to maintain security of supply over the next eight years could not be achieved, the stability of the opencast mine could not be guaranteed and the necessary recultivation could not be carried out,” the NRW economy ministry said in a statement.

The decision to tear down the village came amid a wider revamp of the state's coal policy, under which NRW will end the use of the fossil fuel by 2030 – in contrast to the 2038 deadline set by law – but temporarily increase its use of lignite (brown coal) power plants. Two coal power plants in the state, which were meant to be decommissioned at the end of 2022, are set to continue to operate until spring of 2024. A “large-scale operation,” in which barricades are to be removed, people evacuated, houses demolished and trees cleared, is planned in Lützerath, NRW’s interior minister Herbert Reul (CDU) announced. Most of Lützerath's original residents have already left the town and anti-coal activists now live in the abandoned homes. “In the end, Lützerath must be empty,” Reul said. Climate activists have been protesting RWE’s plans since a court earlier this year ruled in favour of the company’s mining site expansion, which would include the area where Lützerath is located. The court had argued there were no alternative opencast mines to meet necessary lignite demand. According to Der Spiegel, police expect close to a thousand climate activists to oppose the eviction.

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