It is a huge open pit coal mine. The Lützerath site in North Rhine-Westphalia has become a rallying point for opponents of fossil fuels. Activists have been setting up camp there for several months, especially in the trees. The old abandoned village must indeed disappear to allow the extension of a huge lignite mine, one of the largest in Europe, operated by the German energy company RWE, owner of the place.
The government considers the extension of the mine necessary for Germany’s energy security, which must compensate for the interruption of Russian gas supplies. Opponents contest this idea: according to them, the reserves of lignite are sufficient.
This Saturday, January 14, a procession of demonstrators led by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg headed for the Lützerath camp – “Lützi” as activists call it. They showed their support for the activists who oppose the evacuation operation, already very advanced, carried out by the police in the hamlet located at the edge of the mine. According to the organizers, the demonstration gathered some 35,000 people. Incidents have pitted anti-coal protesters against police, with the latter complaining that protective barriers have been breached.
The watchword of the demonstrators? “Prevent the evacuation!” The operation, which began on Wednesday January 11, mobilized police reinforcements from all over Germany. Between 20 and 40 activists were still there Friday evening, according to a spokeswoman for their movement.
The Green Party base is booming
Various civil disobedience actions in support of the movement have taken place across Germany in recent days. In Berlin, on Friday January 13, hooded activists set fire to garbage cans and painted slogans on the facade of the Greens’ offices. This political party, which is part of the government coalition of Social Democrat Olaf Scholz, is in fact accused by activists of having betrayed them by signing a compromise with RWE, allowing the destruction of Lützerath, whose inhabitants were expropriated there several years ago.
As reminds him The world, the evacuation of Lützerath is the result of an agreement reached in the fall of 2022 by two figures of the environmentalist party with RWE. The Minister of Economics of the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia, Mona Neubauer, and the Minister of Economics and Climate, Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck, have obtained from the energy company that he undertakes to definitively cease the exploitation of coal in the Rhine Basin in 2030, and no longer 2038 as planned so far, giving up half of the coal which had been allocated to it in the mid-1990s. Robert Habeck is “largely responsible of the violent evacuation of Lützerath”, accuses the pro-climate civil disobedience movement Ende Gelände. With the management of RWE, the environmental minister “authorized the dismantling of Lützerath”, accuse the activists.
The environmental vice-chancellor for his part declared, Thursday, January 12, “to understand all those who take to the streets to defend the climate”. But, he argued, “sticking to nuclear phase-out dates and not relying on the market to sort things out”, despite the halt in Russian gas supplies, is “also a great success for the climate movement”.
Within the Greens, Lützerath gives rise to lively internal debates. At their last congress, in October 2022, young delegates tried to pass a motion asking to keep Lützerath. In vain, precise The world. The base of the Green Party rumbles: Friday morning, more than 2,000 members had signed an open letter against the expulsion. She asked Robert Habeck and Mona Neubauer to stop the operation immediately. The “deal negotiated with the energy group RWE threatens to break with the principles of our party […]. And not only that, but we are also breaking the Paris climate accord, the coalition contract and the latest trust from the climate justice movement.”
“We are dependent on each other”
Some elected Greens fear that Lützerath could lead to a lasting break between climate activists and the German Green Party, itself born out of the fight against nuclear power. Young Greens federal co-spokesperson Timon Dzienus warned against a move away from the Greens from the climate movement. “It is right now that the Greens would need the support of the climate movement,” he told the news portal. T-Online. “The deal with RWE doesn’t help at all.”
“We are dependent on each other”, for his part advanced Bärbel Höhn, Wednesday, to the online media The Pioneer. According to the first Green Minister (in the 1990s) of the Environment of the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia, “without the pressure of activists outside parliament, it is almost impossible to achieve progress on climate change. But without policy implementation and compromise in government, the climate movement will not achieve its climate goals, which we all share.”
Monday January 9, Claudia Kemfert, of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), had estimated that “the objective of containing global warming at 1.5 ° C is not compatible with the exploitation of Lützerath”. In open letter published Wednesday by german magazine Der Spiegel200 celebrities also demanded an immediate halt to the evacuation of Lützerath, and called for a reassessment of the contracts between the government and RWE.