In Lützerath, a now uninhabited village in the most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the future of the Greens is at stake these days. The place has not only become a symbol of resistance to the climate-damaging generation of electricity from lignite, but also a symbol of a failed climate policy.
His eviction could alienate many potential Green Party voters – and shows how divided the party is on the issue. While the Greens are calling for de-escalation and some are even jointly responsible for the political decision, others are protesting on site – especially the youngsters of the party.
The chairman of the Green Youth, Timon Dzienus, reported on Wednesday morning on the short message service Twitter with a photo from Lützerath in which he can be seen with a raised fist. “We defend,” he wrote. At the same time, his co-spokeswoman Sarah-Lee Heinrich in the ZDF morning show raised a conflict with the parent party on the issue.
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Phasing out coal by 2030 to make way for Lützerath
“At the federal party conference, we only narrowly lost the vote to retain Lützerath,” she said. This means that this is not just a conflict between the Green Youth and the Greens. Many people in Lützerath are also disappointed by the Greens. “We have one headline after the next that we are actually tearing our climate targets in every area.”
The Greens, actually advocates of a quick exit from coal, had reached a deal with the coal company RWE in 2022, which many climate protectors reject: No more coal mining in the Rhenish mining area by 2030, but giving way to the Rhenish town of Lützerath to the one below to mine coal.
The federal and North Rhine-Westphalian economics ministries led by the Greens were in charge, which is seen critically, especially in the party. Luisa Neubauer, Greens member and Fridays For Future activist, said these days that her party had made a “very fatal, wrong decision”. If the government doesn’t draw a line, “then we’ll do it”.
North Rhine-Westphalia’s Environment Minister Oliver Krischer (Greens) said he was “at peace” with himself and the outcome of the negotiations with RWE. In North Rhine-Westphalia, the coal phase-out is sealed by 2030, even if the much-maligned deal with RWE means that coal can still be pulled out of the ground under Lützerath. “In view of the energy crisis and a court-confirmed claim by RWE, this is unavoidable.”
In the east of the republic, on the other hand, the phase-out of coal in 2038 has so far applied. “What is happening here in Lützerath is actually the right argument in the wrong place,” Krischer told the Handelsblatt.
Criticism also comes from the parliamentary group
“I’m interested to hear that it’s now being said that it’s not about Lützerath, but about inadequate climate policy overall. I’m 100 percent with the movement,” Krischer continued. “But then all activists have to answer the question of why they are now fighting over three abandoned houses in Lützerath and not looking for a fight where, as in the east, fundamental questions need to be clarified.” He now sincerely hopes that nobody will be involved in the fight come to harm in Lützerath.
Lützerath is an example of the fact that we are in a time when the climate crisis is a cruel reality, but at the same time the laws to protect the climate are not sufficient and at the same time the coal company RWE has incredible power. Green MP Kathrin Henneberger
But the criticism extends to the Greens parliamentary group. Member of Parliament Kathrin Henneberger, for example, has been in Lützerath as a parliamentary observer for days. “The Greens are a party with a broad range of opinions,” she told Handelsblatt. “In this respect it is not a problem if I believe that the coal under the village should not be burned.”
“Lützerath is an example of the fact that we are in a time when the climate crisis is a cruel reality, but at the same time the laws to protect the climate are not sufficient and at the same time the coal company RWE has incredible power,” said Henneberger. “We have to change all of that.”
Such statements put the Greens in need of explanations and they are clearly struggling to find the right tone. Party leader Ricarda Lang, for example, called on Monday to focus on de-escalation. Although the energy company RWE has a legal claim here, negotiations have succeeded in ensuring that coal in the Rhenish mining area will end in 2030 and that several villages where people still live will not be dredged, emphasized Lang. However, she added that she “nevertheless” had understanding for people who were now demonstrating there.
It must have been clear to her and everyone else in the party that such appeasement would not be enough, in which many were convinced to the last that the path they had taken was the right one and that the political price for the deal with RWE was not too high.
>> Read here: RWE boss appeals to climate activists: no violence in Lützerath
Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck also defended Lützerath’s task. “It’s the right decision, it’s a good decision for climate protection,” said the Green politician on Wednesday in Berlin.
There is good reason to take to the streets for climate protection and to protest “loudly and clearly”, said Habeck. He also believes that protest needs symbols. “But the empty Lützerath settlement, where no one lives anymore, is the wrong symbol in my opinion.”
The Greens’ campaign team sent a justification email on Wednesday morning and also called for de-escalation. “The pictures from Lützerath do not leave us cold,” it says. After all, the Greens have always fought against the continued burning of lignite.
One now wants to keep an eye on what is at stake: “That the coal phase-out takes place nationwide by 2030, that we meet our climate goals, that we lead Germany to climate neutrality by 2045 at the latest”.
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