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FFF protests call for peace, climate justice

March 25, 2022

Coordinated global demonstrations drew thousands of mostly young people calling for climate leadership under the motto "People not Profit." In Germany, the war in Ukraine and bans on Russian fossil fuels were in focus.

A crowd of protesters at a Fridays for Future rally in Berlin
In Germany, the war in Ukraine and Russian fossil fuel imports took center stage as more than 10,000 people gatheredImage: Michael Hanschke/dpa/picture alliance

Global protests organized by the activism network Fridays for Future attracted thousands of participants across Germany and the world Friday, all under the motto "People not Profit," in what was the group's 10th global climate strike.

The staggered protests began in Asia and Australia then moved to Europe and Africa before finishing later in the Americas.

In Stockholm, Sweden, climate activist Greta Thunberg joined protesters in the streets. Thunberg, whose lone demonstrations inspired the global movement, shared a video on Twitter of her and others hopping up and down with placards, yelling, "We are unstoppable! Another world is possible!"

Authorities in Germany say more than 10,000 mostly young people turned out to protest in Berlin, though organizers claim more than 22,000 attended. Thousands more gathered in Hamburg, Bremen, Munich and many other cities around the country.

Ukraine war shines light on Germany's fossil fuel dependency

In Germany, the war in Ukraine and the role of fossil fuels in it added a new dimension to the sense of urgency expressed by protesters. Participants demanded Germany's government immediately ban all import of Russian fossil fuels, for instance, accusing the administration of "funding the war" as a result of Germany's energy dependency.

The drastic changes recently initiated by Chancellor Olaf Scholz's coalition government were also the object of scorn. Protesters bemoaned the fact that the government now plans to scrap its climate goals to subsidize automobiles for the next two years, and build new liquid gas shipping terminals for imports rather than expanding renewables at home and lowering energy consumption.

Russian and Ukrainian activists were present in Berlin, too, some as invited speakers who told of the dangers of protesting in Russia, but also the necessity of doing so.

One Ukrainian who escaped to Germany from Kharkiv said, "The war in Ukraine could stop anytime. The EU and especially Germany just need to stop financing this."

"We are here today to show that peace and climate justice go together," said Berlin student Clara Duvigneau. She, like many at the rally, expressed extreme frustration at the fact that Germany pays tens of millions of euros to Moscow each day for fuels that harm the planet. "We want the energy transition to happen as quickly as possible," she said. 

Fridays for Future protest in Berlin

Germany's 'systemic problem' with fossil fuel dependency

Many protesters criticized the Scholz administration's attempts to bolster supply by shifting dependency from one autocrat to another; Economic Affairs and Climate Action Minister Robert Habeck this week traveled to Qatar to negotiate liquid gas purchasing contracts with the emirate.

"If — like Robert Habeck — you have to travel to Qatar to get away from Putin's gas, you have a systemic problem," climate activist Luisa Neubauer told the daily taz newspaper in Berlin Friday. "In either case we finance opponents of democracy and increase the risk of climate collapse."

Another climate movement calling itself the "Last Generation" says it plans more nationwide protests in Germany on Saturday. The group says members will unfurl large banners with climate crisis facts on buildings across the country. The group says it will target banks, businesses and government agencies "financing the global expansion of deadly fossil fuel use."

'Putin-free energy': Germany courts Gulf states

js/wd (AFP, AP, dpa, epd)