Germany: Climate activists occupy excavators to block coal mine expans…

More than 20 climate activists confined roads and chained themselves to giant excavators on Friday in a bid to stop the expansion of an opencast coal pit in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

The protesters climbed onto the diggers and bucket wheel excavators in the Garzweiler lignite mine in the early hours of Friday.

Many of them camped near the mine in front of a village nearly abandoned and scheduled for demolition to make space for the expansion of the coal pit.

The protesters set up  makeshift tents to block workers from felling surrounding trees in preparation for the mine expansion.

Some activists occupied the heavy machinery and managed to put an English-language banner on its crane arm that read: “Keep it in the ground.”

Climate activists put up tents to block workers from felling the trees in the area

Police were able to remove eight of them, a spokesperson said, adding that the displays were peaceful.

Garzweiler, operated by utility giant RWE, has become the focus of environmental groups in Germany who want to stop coal extraction as soon as possible.

The protest on Friday was organized by the environmental group Alle Dörfer Bleiben (approximately All Villages Should keep),which is a reference to the various settlements being cleared to make space for extracting the coal. 

Protesters put a banner at the Garzweiler open-cast mine that read: “Keep it in the ground”

The village of Lützerath — the site of Friday’s protest — is set to be next.

“1.5 C method: Lützerath stays!” read a large banner on a house that was nevertheless inhabited by local residents.

“There are clear studies that if Germany would want to keep to the carbon budget which they agreed to in the Paris Agreement, they could not continue to excavate this coal pit,” activist Carola Rackete, better known for her activities at sea trying to rescue migrants, said in a video message.

“If [the expansion] happens, there’s no chance of staying within 1.5 degrees,” said activist Alexandra Brüne of Alle Dörfer Bleiben, referring to the target of limiting climate change to a 1.5-degree Celsius (2.7 F) increase in global average temperatures since preindustrial times.

The protests have been going on for almost a decade, with the clearance of demonstrators from their treetop structures in the nearby Hambach Forest in 2018 and again in 2020 probably grabbing the most attention. However, the issue of coal and coal strength has been pushed back into focus as a consequence of the German election and amid the prospect of the ecologist Green party perhaps entering a new coalition government. 

The German government currently plans to stop using coal to generate strength by 2038. It had to ramp up and extend coal-mining activities in response to its earlier-than-intended stop to the use of nuclear strength, scheduled to shut down thoroughly by the end of 2022. 

adi/msh (AP, dpa)

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