Lützerath explained: Why are German police evicting a whole village?
On Wednesday afternoon German police moved in to evict the occupants of Lützerath, a 12th-century village in North Rhine-Westphalia that residents and activists have been defending for over two years.
Police evict climate activists from Lützerath
After climate activists defended the area for over two years, German police moved in on Wednesday to evict the now 1.000-person-strong 12th-century village of Lützerath, in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Lützerath is one of many villages that has faced existential uncertainties over the past 10 years, following the German government’s 2013 plans to expand coal mines in the area. Originally, six villages were to be evicted to make way for the Garzweiler brown coal mine.
Climate activists have been occupying the village and surrounding farmlands to stop the coal mine being built. When an eviction order was given on Tuesday, more activists from across Germany and the world travelled to the site to defend the occupation.
Footage published by Euronews showed the events of Wednesday’s eviction. In some instances, protests remained peaceful, with activists sitting on the ground and singing. In others, police were targeted with fireworks and forcefully removed protesters from the site. Parts of the site remain occupied by activists.
What led to the village being occupied by activists?
Residents who were fighting to save Lützerath and the six surrounding villages believed that the 2021 election of Germany’s coalition government, which includes the environmentally-inclined Green Party, would provide them with a new ally in their existential battle against energy company RWE Power and its coal expansion plans.
But while the neighbouring villages of Kuckum, Keyenberg, Berverath, Oberwestrich and Unterwestrich won their David and Goliath battle against RWE in October 2022, Greens’ economy minister Robert Habeck sacrificed Lützerath in a trade-off with RWE, to bring the region’s coal phaseout forward by eight years, to 2030.
The 900 people who were living in the village were then forced to leave. The local church, which dates back to 1891, and more recently installed wind turbines were destroyed to make room for the RWE coal mine, which will now have access to 280 million tonnes of coal underneath the site.
Habeck says Ukraine war necessitates Lützerath eviction
Since taking on his role in the coalition government, and the scramble for energy inflicted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Greens’ minister Robert Habeck has been criticised for straying from the party’s founding commitment to environmentalism in the name of short-term energy security.
Activists and residents from the Lützi Bleibt (Lützi Stays) movement, who have set up camp to defend the village, say that Habeck’s decisions will have crushing environmental consequences in the next few years and will mean certain failure for Germany staying within the Paris Agreement-limit of 1,5 degrees of warming.
Luisa Neubauer, Germany’s answer to Greta Thunberg, visited the site during the week. Neubauer, who is a member of the Green Party, condemned the party line on Lützerath, “The Greens have capitulated to the RWE,” Neubauer wrote on Twitter. Though the eviction has begun, Thunberg is also expected to visit the occupation site this weekend.
Thumb image credit: rebaix-fotografie / Shutterstock.com