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Monday, February 6, 2023

Largest police operation in Germany: The climate war in the village of Lützerath

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Climate activists want to prevent this at all costs. The mood is aggressive. Violent riots are imminent.

The preparations have been going on for weeks. To reinforce the police from North Rhine-Westphalia, emergency services have now been sent to Lützerath from all over Germany. With water cannons, horses and dogs, they are supposed to start the controversial evacuation on Wednesday. “It will be a challenging mission with many risks,” said Aachen police chief Dirk Weinspach. He expects peaceful demonstrations as well as violent riots. The first fights broke out yesterday.

Picture gallery: The battle for Lützerath: activists and police officers are arming themselves

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1 (Photo: Federico Gambarini (dpa)) Picture 1/14

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Nobody lives normally in Lützerath, on the edge of the opencast mining area. The original residents have sold their property and have long since moved elsewhere. Their resettlement began in 2006. But in the meantime more than 700 climate activists have holed up in the empty houses. And they are determined to save “Lützi”. “We hope that we can hold Lützerath for at least six weeks,” says Dina Hamid, spokeswoman for the Lützerath initiative. Organizations and initiatives such as “Ende Gelände”, “Fridays for Future”, “All Villages Remain” and “Last Generation” have joined forces in the alliance. Among other things, they have planned sit-ins and the occupation of tree houses and huts. They hope that if they last six weeks, it will be the season when the law prohibits clearing trees. This would allow Lützerath to be saved by October.

The political situation is delicate

“Here, a society shows that it understands that everything is at stake. The village here is overrun with people who have come from all over the country,” says climate activist Luisa Neubauer. In her opinion, politicians did not expect so much resistance to the demolition of the village of Lützerath on the edge of the Rhenish opencast lignite mine. “You can tell that the power in this place was apparently underestimated,” says Neubauer.

The political situation is delicate: because the Greens, of all people, who supported the preservation of the Hambach Forest in the fight against RWE in 2018, are no longer in opposition in North Rhine-Westphalia, but have been forming the state government with the CDU since summer 2022. You agreed to the end of Lützerath. “The eviction is a painful step, but unfortunately a necessary one,” says Green Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection Mona Neubaur. She defends the demolition of the village with the argument that the coal phase-out in North Rhine-Westphalia will be brought forward by eight years from 2038 to 2030 and that five other villages in the Rhenish lignite mining area will be saved from destruction. It was already agreed in 2022.

The green leaders also justify their about-face with the energy crisis: More electricity from lignite-fired power plants is needed to compensate for the loss of Russian gas. However, whether this is true is controversial: each side now presents its own reports. A new short study by the “Coal Exit Research Group” from various German universities was published at the weekend, which concludes that enough can be extracted from the coal mines that have already been developed to secure the electricity supply.

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Heidi Riepl

Editor foreign policy, Weltspiegel


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