1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites
An activist sits in a tripod blocking the road for police vehicles
Police dismantled several tripods blocking a road leading into the contested villageImage: Thomas Banneyer/dpa/picture alliance

Germany: Lützerath anti-coal activists brace for clearance

January 2, 2023

German police have begun preparing to clear Lützerath village to make way for the expansion of an open-pit coal mine. Activists have said they will try to block the operation.


Climate activists occupying the abandoned German village of Lützerath to prevent the expansion of a nearby open-pit coal mine jumped into action on Monday as police began preparations to clear the village.

Local police said that they were only focused on clearing a street that leads to the village on Monday. The organization defending the village, Lützerath Bleibt (Lützerath is staying), wrote on Twitter that two of their tripods have been dismantled, but that "no cops have made it into the village."

Another tweet showed photos from the area, with activists saying several actions were being prepared ahead of time.

The clearance of the village is planned for mid-January — activists have called on supporters to join them before January 10. Many residents have been relocated so that the ground can be dug up for coal extraction.

Why are activists blockading the village of Lützerath?

Activists began occupying the village of Lützerath two years ago. Its fate has been intimately connected to the debate over Germany's plan to stop burning coal.

Actvists gather round a tripod as a fire rages in the foreground
A German police union has said it is hopeful the clearance of Lützerath can be carried out peacefullyImage: Henning Kaiser/dpa/picture alliance

As one of the most polluting sources of energy, the continued burning of coal risks sending Germany beyond the commitments it made to reduce carbon emissions as part of the Paris Agreement.

The Lützerath initiative follows a similar campaign to protect the nearby Hambacher forest, which was cleared in 2019 in what was the costliest police operation in German history, with a price tag of €50 million (€53 million).

However, despite the clearance, it was agreed that the forest would not be ripped up for coal mining.

A man sits on the road with his hand glued to the ground
An activist from the group Letzte Generation (Last Generation) glued his hand to the road to prevent police vehicles from advancingImage: Henning Kaiser/dpa/picture alliance

What fate is awaiting Lützerath?

In response to an open letter, the head of the Aachen police force responsible for the clearance, Dirk Weinspach, said that he shares the activists' concerns regarding "further warming of the earth and the consequences that it will bring if we are unable to stick to the internationally agreed goal of 1.5 degrees."

But he added that it is not up to the police to decide, and that the clearance must go ahead. Activists still hope to prevent the success of the police operation.

Activists stand next to a fire while a huge mining machine looms over them in the background
Open pit coal mines blot the face of Germany's most populous state — North Rhine-WestphaliaImage: Henning Kaiser/dpa/picture alliance

An agreement between mining company RWE and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, represented by its Green party Economy Minister Mona Neubauer, and the German state, represented by the federal Economy Minister Robert Habeck — also from the Greens — was ratified in December.

According to the deal, Germany's coal phaseout will be brought forward to 2030, rather than 2038, and several villages will be saved from destruction — but not Lützerath.

For climate activists fighting to keep the warming of the planet below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels, the deal does not go far enough.

But as Germany cuts its dependency on Russian gas and oil, authorities warn that coal will have to continue as a source of energy for several more years.

Police stand in front of activists who have barricaded the road to Lützerath
Police have said they aim to dismantle the occupation without violanceImage: Henning Kaiser/dpa/picture alliance

ab/fb (dpa, AFP)

While you're here: Every Tuesday, DW editors round up what is happening in German politics and society. You can sign up here for the weekly email newsletter Berlin Briefing.

Skip next section DW's Top Story

DW's Top Story

Ukraine Donezk | Russische Kommissarin für Kinderrechte Maria Lvova-Belova mit Kindern

Ukraine's abducted children: 'List of suspects will grow'

Skip next section More stories from DW
Go to homepage