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Opencast mining: questions and answers on the Lützerath clearance

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An energy company wants to demolish a village to excavate coal. Climate activists want to prevent that. That is the starting position in Lützerath in the Rhineland. Answers to the most important questions.

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In the Rhineland, the violent evacuation of the village of Lützerath, which was occupied by climate activists, is imminent. The mood is heated.

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What is Lützerath?

Lützerath is a settlement consisting of a few buildings that belongs to the city of Erkelenz in the Rhineland. On the one hand, the unreal crater landscape of the Garzweiler lignite opencast mine opens up, a scenery like from another planet. The site’s original residents have all moved away, but the buildings have long been occupied by climate activists. Some of them also live in tree houses, caravans and tents. Although the buildings are dilapidated, walking around reveals that this is a centuries-old cultural landscape.

Who owns Lützerath?

All buildings and land belong to the energy company RWE. And all lawsuits against demolition have been dismissed by courts. The responsible district of Heinsberg has forbidden the stay in Lützerath. On this basis, the evacuation can now be carried out by the police. More than 1,000 officials are said to be deployed every day.

Why does RWE want to demolish Lützerath?

There are particularly large lignite deposits under the village that RWE wants to excavate. This is necessary to ensure the energy supply, says the group. He has the backing of the North Rhine-Westphalian state government made up of the CDU and the Greens. In the current crisis situation, it is clear to everyone that the coal under Lützerath is needed to ensure security of supply, said Prime Minister Hendrik Wüst (CDU) in an interview with the “Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger”. “No one made the decision to take advantage of this coal lightly.”

What do the climate activists say?

They deny that the coal located under “Lützi” is really needed and refer, among other things, to a study by scientists from several universities who have come together as the “CoalExit Research Group”. According to this, the coal in the current mining area is always sufficient, even under the conditions of the energy crisis triggered by the Ukraine war. According to this reading, RWE is primarily targeting Lützerath because the coal can be extracted there more easily and thus more profitably. The group denies that.

How violent will the eviction be?

According to the responsible Aachen police chief Dirk Weinspach, the activists in Lützerath are a “mixed scene” that is predominantly “bourgeois and peacefully oriented”. However, a small proportion are willing to commit violent crimes. Stones, firecrackers and bottles were thrown at the police several times. The atmosphere on site is heated, the tone towards the police is sometimes aggressive.

What does Lützerath have to do with the Hambach Forest?

The Hambach Forest is a symbol of the climate movement, as is Lützerath, which is not far away. It too was to be destroyed in 2018 so that RWE could excavate the coal underneath. However, there was massive resistance to this, because contrary to what the term “forest” would suggest, this is an ancient forest with trees up to 350 years old and rare animal species. In 2018, the North Rhine-Westphalian state government ordered the clearing of the forest. 86 tree houses were dismantled, which was justified by insufficient fire protection. The Cologne Administrative Court later classified this as a pretext and the eviction as illegal. In 2018, the Münster Higher Administrative Court issued a provisional freeze on clearing. As part of the coal compromise, it was decided to preserve the forest. The activists have achieved their goal “Hambi stays”.

What political consequences could the evacuation of Lützerath have?

The eviction can become a burden, especially for the Greens, who are co-governing in both Berlin and Düsseldorf. Pictures of police officers who act against climate protectionists apparently in the interests of a coal company are unlikely to correspond to the political ideas of the green electorate. Climate activist Luisa Neubauer accuses the Greens – of which she is a member herself – of “calculated undermining of the Paris climate goals”. This touches on the core values ​​of the party. Experts like the Potsdam climate researcher Stefan Rahmstorf also consider the evacuation to be a historical mistake.

Source: Stern

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