Climate activists evade police to enter an open-cast mine run by energy giant RWE, two days after EU leaders failed to agree on a plan to make the bloc's economy carbon neutral by 2050.

Climate activists enter the grounds of the open-cast mine in Garzweiler, western Germany, on June 22, 2019
Climate activists enter the grounds of the open-cast mine in Garzweiler, western Germany, on June 22, 2019 (AFP)

Thousands of people joined climate change protests near one of Germany's biggest lignite coal mines on Saturday, two days after European Union leaders failed to agree on a plan to make the bloc's economy carbon neutral by 2050.

German police deployed hundreds of officers in and around the western German village of Hochneukirch to prevent demonstrators from blocking the vast, open-pit mine and adjacent power plants.

The activists, many dressed in white overalls and carrying sleeping bags, got into the vast Garzweiler lignite mine after a cat-and-mouse game with police, AFP news agency reported.

Hundreds of protesters succeeded in temporarily blocking railroad tracks used to transport coal and another group broke through a police cordon and entered the mine, German news agency DPA reported.

The various rallies were mostly peaceful.

Policemen encircle anti-coal activists demonstrating at the open-cast mine Garzweiler, western Germany, on June 22, 2019.
Policemen encircle anti-coal activists demonstrating at the open-cast mine Garzweiler, western Germany, on June 22, 2019. (AFP)

Pressure on govt

The mine has become a focus of environmental protests in recent years because the operator, German utility company RWE, threatened to chop down a nearby forest to enlarge it.

"It's important to increase the pressure on the government," protester Selma Schubert said. "The government doesn't do enough against climate change."

Participants in the Saturday protests held banners calling for climate protection or singing songs as they marched through villages in the Rhineland region near the mine.

According to the German environmental group Bund, more than 8,000 people took part.

Climate neutral Germany by 2050

"You're building a movement, that's beautiful," said protester Seimi Rowin, who came from Scotland. "But we need to get to the next step ... otherwise, future generations will pay for 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 compared to pre-industrial times.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies