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Climate activist on COP27: 'Global North has to pay up'

November 17, 2022

Luisa Neubauer, a prominent German activist with Fridays for Future, told DW that world leaders underestimate "the amount of mistrust" felt by vulnerable countries at this year's UN climate talks in Egypt.

German climate activist Luisa Neubauer speaks at the COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt
Luisas Neubauer, 26, is one of the most well-known voices in the fight against climate change in GermanyImage: Michael Kappeler/dpa/picture alliance

As the UN climate summit in Egypt nears its end, world leaders have been making significant pledges, but climate activists say it's more important than ever for world leaders to follow through on their promises.

DW spoke with prominent German activist Luisa Neubauer about her concerns for the talks in Sharm el-Sheikh, and what richer and higher-polluting nations must do to address the crisis.

Developing nations 'can't wait anymore'

Neubauer, who is with Fridays for Future Germany, told DW "the amount of mistrust" at the COP27 from the hardest-hit nations is being underestimated.

"People from the most affected areas, from the most vulnerable countries, they have no reason anymore to believe any of the finance pledges that are being made — that we've heard for so, so, so many years — with then all of the leaders, one after the other, backing off of actually delivering to that," she said, speaking from the UN climate summit.

"And people are tired. They can't wait anymore. They have lost everything already to a large extent," she added.

Luisa Neubauer: 'The Global North really has to pay up'

Developing nations are disproportionately impacted by the devastating effects of climate change. Many countries have appealed for the creation of a loss and damage fund for high-polluting nations to compensate for the destruction caused by natural disasters that have been intensified by climate change.

The United States and the European Union, however, have hesitated to set up a new fund — preferring instead to use existing channels.

"If this conference is supposed to mean anything, this is the moment where the Global North really has to pay up," Neubauer said.

Countries 'undermining their own promises' with gas deals

The prominent German climate activist further criticized new gas deals made ahead of the climate talks in Sharm el-Sheikh, raising concerns about the "opening up of a new fossil fuel era."

Germany and other countries in Europe have been scrambling to secure alternative sources of oil and gas as part of the fallout from Russia's war on Ukraine.

"I'm not saying that all of the pledges made here are categorically empty, but what we're seeing is that leaders, especially those of the Global North, are undermining their own promises when saying that they are committing to climate action, to mitigation, to loss and damage on the one side, while fueling the crisis that causes all the devastation at the same time," Neubauer said.

"It's not working out," she added.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and climate activist Luisa Neubauer speak at the COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt
Neubauer spoke with German Foreign Minister and Greens politician Annalena Baerbock at the summit on ThursdayImage: Christophe Gateau/dpa/picture alliance

Art protests show 'how drastic and radical the crisis really is'

Neubauer also pushed back against recent criticism of protests by some climate activists who glued themselves to streets and works of art, asking: "Why should that be counterproductive?"

"It's a great team work that we are doing all over the planet with some of us creating large movements, bringing millions of peoples on the street and creating a public understanding of what's going on in the larger sense. And others are there, too, to show how drastic and how radical this crisis really is," she said. 

She said that rather than climate protests harming public opinion concerning action against climate change, it is politicians' policies and messaging doing the actual damage.

"I would argue that the public opinion is being harmed by leaders, you know, telling all the fairy tales about the crisis that 'can apparently wait,' about the climate not being the first priority," Neubauer said.

While the public and activists are being told that there are other concerns to address besides the environment, Neubauer noted that "the one thing we really cannot live without is a stable climate."

This interview was conducted by DW's Ben Fajzullin.

Edited by: Sean Sinico

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