Why climate activists are defending a German town

STORY: Police began clearing climate protesters out of an abandoned village in Germany on Wednesday (January 11) in a showdown over the expansion of an opencast coal mine.

Demonstrators have been protesting against the Garzweiler mine, run by energy firm RWE in the village of Luetzerath.

It has highlighted tensions around Germany's climate policy during an energy crisis.

RWE in a statement on Wednesday morning said it would start to demolish the former settlement of the village.

The latest round of protests follows a regional court decision on Monday (January 9) that upheld an earlier ruling to vacate the village.

The land and houses now belong to RWE and all residents are gone.

Activists have taken over the village and made makeshift barricades.

They formed human chains as police in riot gear moved in.

Police said protesters had begun throwing Molotov cocktails, beer bottles and stones.

The standoff could take weeks to resolve, according to authorities.

Some protesters, like Sascha, which is not her real name, have been living in tree houses. Others have suspended themselves from wires and wooden frames.

“I've been here for a week now, and before that I was here on and off for weeks at a time, because I think we have to work to make sure that Luetzerath stays. It's the red line of 1.5 degree."

The protests highlight growing tensions over Berlin's climate policy.

Environmentalists say it took a back seat during the energy crisis that hit Europe last year after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, forcing a return to dirtier fuels.

The war in Ukraine has prompted the government to change course on previous policies.

Those include firing up mothballed coal power plants and extending the lifespan of nuclear power stations after Russia cut gas deliveries to Europe in an energy standoff that sent prices soaring.

The government has, however, brought forward the date when all brown coal, or lignite power plants will be shut down in North Rhine-Wesphalia, where the Garzeiler mine is located, to 2030 from 2038.