Lützerath is not the right symbol for climate protests in Germany – econ min
Clean Energy Wire / ZDF
German economy and climate minister Robert Habeck has said he has “great respect” for climate protesters but sees the village Lützerath — which is due to be demolished and replaced with a coal mine — as the wrong symbol. “I believe that climate protection and protest need symbols, but the Lützerath settlement, where no one lives any more, is the wrong symbol in my view,” said the Green Party minister at a press conference. Habeck argued that the recent deal both the regional and federal governments made with coal company RWE – which accelerates the end of coal power use in western Germany by 2030, but means that RWE can use the lignite under Lützerath – should be in line with the demands made by the climate movement. “It is an agreement that serves climate protection, creates legal certainty and puts into place the binding nature that has always been demanded – including by the climate protection movement – that no more coal will be used to generate electricity in the Rhenish mining area from 2030,” said Habeck, who added that he would work for similar agreements in east German lignite mining regions. The minister highlighted that he preferred legal certainty over trusting market mechanisms in the “dynamic” European Union emissions trading system (EU ETS). “For me, this is too uncertain,” Habeck said about the ETS. “We need legal clarity.” Experts have said that high prices for CO2 allowances and the overall cap on emissions in the ETS will lead to a coal phase-out in Europe by around 2030.
The small western German village of Lützerath has become the latest battleground for climate activists, as it is set to be demolished to expand a neighbouring lignite mine. Given Germany’s aims to quit coal ‘ideally’ by 2030 and to reach climate neutrality by 2045, the fate of Lützerath has been hotly contested. Several reports have questioned the need to demolish the abandoned village —which is now occupied by climate activists — to guarantee supply security, even as the energy crisis has pushed the government to bring coal plants back online and extend the lifespan of others. Police started to vacate several hundred activists from the village on 11 January. A large protest is planned near Lützerath on 14 January, which Swedish Fridays for Future activist Greta Thunberg plans to join.
In an interview with public broadcaster ZDF, Habeck said Lützerath was not the continuation of the energy policy of the past, but rather its conclusion – “the end of lignite power in North Rhine-Westphalia.” Faced with the energy crisis, the government had to “unfortunately” let additional lignite power enter the market to avoid a gas shortage. “We have made the energy crisis manageable,” he said. In the deal with RWE, this was done in return for the binding agreement to exit coal by 2030.