German police halted the eviction of tree squatters in the Hambach Forest near Cologne after a man died amid protests over RWE’s plans to clear the area for open-pit lignite mining – risking further damage to the environmental credentials of a utility that is soon due to become one of Europe’s biggest renewables operators.

Police in nearby Aachen said the man, likely to have been a journalist, died after falling from a bridge linking tree houses in an area of the forest occupied by protesters against RWE’s activities, in what has become a flashpoint for debate over the pace of Germany’s exit from coal and the wider Energiewende energy transition.