Thursday, May 26

The coal war: the battle to shut down Germany’s lignite mines


From lockdowns to weekly protests, environmental activists in Germany are angry about continued coal mining. Euronews “Hans von der Brelie heads to one of the world’s largest open pit pits, Garzweiler II, to witness for himself the battle to shut down the country’s lignite mines.

I arrive at dawn, overwhelmed by the beauty of the industrial landscape, stretching as far as the eye can see. An abstract pattern of layers of earth and lignite bathed in morning light.

But it’s a deadly beauty: If all those hundreds of millions of tons of coal are actually dug up and burned, Germany can say goodbye to its climate goals. In recent years, the country has begun to realize what could seem like a climate catastrophe: excruciatingly hot summers and apocalyptic rains that have the ability to sweep away cities and lives.

It is no accident that I am here today. One of my sources within the German climate protection movement informed me, without giving any real details, that “something big” was planned. Everything is very secret. All they tell me is where and when to go.

The timing is almost perfect. In Berlin, the country’s political parties continue to hold talks about the formation of a new coalition government. Climate, and especially coal concerns, are some of the biggest issues to discuss. Also, the next international conference on climate change in Glasgow, COP 26, is right around the corner.

Suddenly I hear the sound of police sirens cutting through the cold morning air. A few minutes later a helicopter appears flying over the moat. I get a short message in my encrypted messaging app: ‘a bulldozer and two giant stackers locked’.

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It soon becomes clear that a completely unknown group called ‘Counterattack – for a Good Life’ has successfully infiltrated the open pit overnight. Some of the 21 activists have chained themselves to the towering structures of the bulldozers, managing to bring the huge machines to a complete stop.

Mine expansion threatens villages

Near the well I meet Lara and Sarah in a protest camp in the village of Lützerath. It is one of six villages near the expanding mine threatened.

After a while, they finally agreed to let me talk to the activists who were still chained to the excavators. As I pick up the phone, I hear a voice say, “We feel like we’re on a roller coaster; it is not easy to sneak into an open pit and block an excavator… ”I ask them what they want“ We decided to take measures to push for the end of the use of coal as soon as possible. The current timetable to stop using coal by 2038 and continue destroying towns like Lützerath is totally unacceptable. “

I have visited several mines in Europe for Euronews and I clearly remember the exchanges I had with coal miners, union bosses, government ministers in countries such as Poland, Romania and other parts of Central and Eastern Europe. One of his most important arguments was: “Why should we stop using coal early when a rich country like Germany has no plans to do so before 2038?” energy transition.

But could things be about to change? The liberal and green Social Democrats, who are poised to form Germany’s next coalition government, have hinted at their intention to phase out the use of coal by 2030. Perhaps a ray of hope, not only in the fight against climate change, but also for residents. from – until now – villages not destroyed neighboring the Garzweiler II mine.

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