Climate activists end blockade of German coal mine

Posted on Sunday, June 23rd, 2019 By Kirsten Grieshaber, Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) — Hundreds of climate activists ended a protest inside one of Germany's biggest open-pit mines Sunday after police repeatedly ordered them to leave, citing life-threatening danger, and authorities pulled some protesters out.

The Garzweiler lignite coal mine was a focal point of environmental protests in Germany's Rhineland since Friday, when 40,000 students rallied for more action against climate change in the nearby city of Aachen.

"We wrote climate history this weekend," the activist group Ende Gelaende said in a statement announcing the end of the protest. "Our movement has never been so diverse and never been so determined."

The protests started after European Union leaders failed to agree on how to make the EU carbon neutral by 2050.

On Saturday, some demonstrators blocked railroad tracks used to transport coal before others broke through a police cordon to enter the mine.

Protesters and police accused each other of combative behavior in the mine and causing injuries. Police said eight officers were injured in scuffles with protesters.

German news agency dpa reported that activists claimed police denied water and food to those who were temporarily detained. Police denied the allegation.

Previous environmental protests took place around the mine in recent years because the operator, German utility company RWE, planned to cut down a forest to enlarge it.

Following months of climate protests by students and a sharp rise in the polls for Germany's Green party, Chancellor Angela Merkel recently threw her weight behind the goal of making Germany climate neutral by 2050. That would mean the country's economy no longer would add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

Scientists say ending fossil fuel use by mid-century is a must if countries want to achieve the 2015 Paris climate accord's most ambitious goal of keeping global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial times.

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