Emergency appeal granted Court orders temporary halt to Hambach Forest clearing

Münster · Surprising success for environmentalists in their fight against the clearing of the Hambach Forest: A court in Münster has temporarily suspended the RWE forest clearing while it considers the case.

A court in the city of Münster has ordered a preliminary stop to the clearing of the Hambach Forest near Cologne. The court accepted an urgent appeal from the environmental organization BUND ("German Federation for the Environment and Nature Conservation") to stop cutting down trees. In the coming months, energy concern RWE wanted to cut down more than half of the remaining forest in order to expand an existing open pit coal mine.

In it’s argument to the court, BUND said that the forest has a population of Bechstein’s bats and because of that, it must be protected under the EU’s Habitats Directive. The court said the documents to support the appeal filled several boxes. Coupled with the complexity of the legal issues involved, it would be impossible to expedite a quick legal decision. It ordered a suspension of the forest clearing for the time being.

Energy concern RWE planned to cut down a good 100 hectares of the 200 hectares of forest that remain in order to expand open pit mining. It says a temporary stop to the forest clearing would jeopardize its power plant supply.

Climate activists have been demonstrating for years against lignite mining and in support of climate protection by occupying the forest. Time and again, RWE employees and police were attacked with Molotov cocktails.

Hambach Forest was once 4,100 hectares, home to centuries-old beech and oak trees. It is on what is probably the largest European lignite open pit mine, situated between Aachen and Cologne. It is now considered a symbol of resistance to lignite-based power, as it is a symbol of climate protection.

The state government of North Rhine-Westphalia had instructed the district of Düren and the city of Kerpen to empty the tree houses where activists had been staying for security reasons. Police had cleared out the tree houses in the past few days.

(Orig. text: dpa; Translation: ck)

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