German police arrested Greta Thunberg for protesting coal mine development
Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg was briefly arrested Tuesday at a demonstration over the contentious development of a western Germany coal mine that has become a climate debate hotspot.
Over the last week, demonstrations at Lützerath, a small community that is expected to be removed and destroyed to make room for the adjacent Garzweiler coal mine, have grown significant and heated. 15,000 protested Saturday.
Thunberg, 20, has been one of the world’s most visible climate protestors since she spoke at the 2018 UN Climate Change Conference as a teenager.
Thunberg joined Lützerath protests in Germany this week. She was among a handful of protestors arrested Tuesday after approaching the mine’s edge, according to dpa. Reuters reported her release shortly after.
North Rhine-Westphalia has three huge open-pit coal mines, including Garzweiler. Mined lignite accounts for 20% of Germany’s carbon emissions.
Three mines have expanded over decades. The mines have displaced and demolished roughly 50 settlements, many of them centuries old.
Since a court ordered its removal a decade ago, demonstrations have centred on Lützerath, 15 kilometres from Germany’s western border.
About 100 people used to live in the hamlet, but all of them have now been evacuated, according to RWE, the company that runs the mine. Since then, protestors have occupied abandoned buildings.
The occupants were evicted and the hamlet demolished last week after a court judgement. Since then, police and demonstrators have clashed.
Expanding the mine might force Germany to miss its Paris Agreement climate commitments, according to climate groups.
Energy has been Germany’s biggest political problem for two years. In 2019, the country pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. In 2021, the country’s supreme court ordered the government to decrease emissions even further, accelerating the deadline.
Germany resumed coal power after Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2022 and shut off natural gas supply to Europe. At least 20 coal-fired power facilities nationwide were revived or extended to keep the lights on this winter.
Germany missed its 2022 climate ambitions, and officials expect to miss 2023 ones.
In October, RWE and the German government agreed to accelerate Lützerath’s destruction in return for RWE’s coal shutdown.
The agreement required RWE to shut down its coal mines eight years sooner than anticipated, in 2030. That idea would save five villages and three farmsteads from destruction.
However, RWE stated that until then, “optimal use” of coal still “needed” the demolition of Lützerath, which was so near to the mine’s present boundary.
Climate activists have held near-daily protests, including halting Munich and Berlin airport runways.
RWE said last week that it regrets that the planned demolition procedure can only take place under heavy police protection and that opponents of the opencast mine are asking for illegal interruptions and criminal conduct.