LUETZERATH, Germany (AP) — Police on Wednesday entered a condemned village in western Germany, launching an effort to evict activists holed up at the site in an effort to prevent its demolition to make way for the expansion of a coal mine.
Officers in riot gear moved into the tiny hamlet of Luetzerath, which has become a flashpoint of debate over the country’s climate efforts.
Environmentalists say bulldozing the village to expand the nearby Garzweiler coal mine would result in huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. The government and utility company RWE say the coal is needed to ensure Germany’s energy security.
On Tuesday, protesters refused to heed a court ruling effectively banning them from the area. Some dug trenches, built barricades and perched atop giant tripods in an effort to stop heavy machines from reaching the village, before police pushed them back by force.
RWE wants to extract the coal beneath Luetzerath, which it says is necessary to ensure energy security in Germany. The company reached a deal with the regional government last year that allows the village to be destroyed in return for ending coal use by 2030, rather than 2038.
But climate campaigners say the agreement to expand the massive open-cast mine goes against Germany’s international commitments to reduce emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases. They also cite studies suggesting the coal beneath Luetzerath may never be needed.
The utility company said in a statement early Wednesday that “today, RWE Power will start to demolish the former settlement of Luetzerath.”
It said it is “appealing to the squatters to observe the rule of law and to end the illegal occupation of buildings, plants and sites belonging to RWE peacefully.”