02 December 2021
A cluster of villages located close to RWE’s gapping Garzweiler II open pit lignite mine have come to represent the front line of Germany’s climate resistance movement. For years, these communities have lived under the threat of pointless destruction for coal. Many villagers have bravely stood up to RWE and fought for the survival of their communities. They have been supported by a diverse coalition of climate activist groups who, across the years, have established camps to defend the nearby Hambach Forest, occupied the villages, and even entered the cavernous mine and scaled machinery to bring operations to a halt.
For too long, the specter of RWE has hovered over these communities, as the company waits for its opportunity to subsume them. Some, like Immerath, have not survived. But a critical fight was won in November 2021, when Germany’s government-in-waiting announced that all but one of the remaining villages would be spared. It leaves the iconic Lützerath as the only village whose fate is uncertain. That is now the job of the courts. But Lützerath is not alone. Surrounding villages and activists continue to fight for its survival and what it represents: “Defend Lützerath, Defend 1.5°C.”
Poland’s Turów coal mine has long been gulping up water in the region, leaving entire Czech villages dry and damaging nearby houses. In February 2021, the Czech government moved to sue Poland at the European Court of Justice after repeated attempts to get the Polish government to address the water crisis fell on deaf ears. In May 2021, the court ordered an immediate temporary halt to operations at the mine while it came to its ruling. The mine’s operator, PGE, has ignored the court’s order, and has continued excavation as normal. This led the court to fine Poland €500,000 for each day it breaches the ruling.
PGE and the Polish government want to operate the mine until 2044, a plan that is totally incompatible with climate science and coal’s dire economics. It also leaves the Bogatynia region unable to access the EU’s Just Transition Fund because it is not planning for an energy transition this decade. Europe Beyond Coal together with local people and activists is calling for a planned phase out of coal in the region this decade, enabling workers to transition to new jobs, and local communities in neighbouring countries to regain their basic right to water. Polish think tank Instrat has shown that Poland’s energy grid would continue unhindered if Turów permanently closed in 2026, while a report by Poland’s National Chamber of Energy Clusters shows it would be over 14 billion euros cheaper to build a renewables-based alternative to the current Turów complex, with more jobs created in the process.
€500,000 for each day illegal mining continues at Turów