Protesters occupy German village Luetzerath earmarked for demolition to make way for coal mine

Environmental activists occupying a German village due to be swallowed up by a coal mine have vowed to fight on as police gear up to evict them.

The village of Luetzerath in western Germany has gradually been abandoned by its original inhabitants, as it is set to be demolished to make way for an extension to the Garzweiler II lignite mine.

The village stands just a few hundred meters from a vast pit where German utility giant RWE extracts lignite coal to burn in nearby power plants.

The fate of the village embodies the broader debate over Germany's efforts to wean itself off coal, the most polluting fossil fuel, by 2030, amid the gas crisis.

Environmentalists, who warn the coal would release millions of tonnes of climate-heating carbon dioxide and harmful air pollution, moved into the abandoned homes of former residents two years ago.

The group LuetziBleibt - which translates as Luetzi is Staying - claimed "around a couple of hundred people" were currently hunkered down in the village and expects more to join at the weekend.

"We want the coal to stay in the ground because it threatens the basis of human civilisation," said Johanna Inkermann, a spokesperson for Luetzi is Staying.

"With climate catastrophe already being here, already harshly affecting people in the Global South, who have not caused [it], we are demanding a change in our current economic system," she told Sky News over the phone from the camp.

But the Heinsberg county administration has given the police the go-ahead to evict the occupiers from Tuesday 10 January. The activists expect police to start by fencing off the village to prevent more people from joining.

"We will definitely not be moved," vowed Ms Inkermann.

"We will keep standing in the way of the destruction that is happening here... we will defend this village and we will defend climate justice."

Last summer the German government said it was forced to fire up additional coal power, in a "bitter but necessary" move to fill the gap left by Russian gas cut off by President Vladimir Putin.

Ministers have been exploring how to boost clean power, aiming to source 80% of the country's electricity from renewables by 2030.

The ministry for economic affairs and climate action and the mine operator, RWE, were not immediately available to comment, but last year said the war in Ukraine had amplified the importance of a secure supply of lignite coal for power plants.

One study by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) claims the lignite coal below Luetzerath was not needed to secure German power supply, even in the absence of Russian gas.

The protesters believe Germany can find ways to manage without the coal.

"It's about getting the grid more flexible and building up possibilities to store energy," as well as building further renewable power, said Ms Inkermann.

She said it was not the group's responsibility to come up with alternatives, but to stop the expansion of the mine to protect people from climate change.

"After all," she added, the "climate catastrophe doesn't wait for this problem to be solved. And we don't have time anymore to to burn more coal... we have to manage multiple crises at the same time. And it's entirely possible".

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