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Germany: Climate protesters rally with Thunberg in Berlin

September 24, 2021

Thousands of demonstrators, including Greta Thunberg, marched in Germany to demand "no more excuses" from politicians as Germans prepare to head to the polls.

A participant holds a sign reading "The Titanic would have no problem in 2021" during a Fridays for Future global climate strike in Berlin, while another holds a sign reading: "I'm sure the dinosaurs thought they had time too"
Protesters are hoping to raise pressure on politicians to take urgent steps to curb the climate crisisImage: Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images

Fridays for Future protests were held across Germany as climate activists sought to make their voices heard ahead of the country's federal election on Sunday.

Founder Greta Thunberg,who joined the event in Berlin, told demonstrators that "no political party is doing even close to enough" to fight the climate crisis.

"Yes, we must vote, you must vote, but remember that voting only will not be enough. We must keep going into the streets," Thunberg said at the rally in front of the Reichstag parliament building.

Greta Thunberg: 'Germany is the fourth biggest emitter of CO2 in history'

Aside from Berlin, protests also took place in Hamburg, Freiburg, Cologne and Bonn. The demonstrations in Germany were just one part of a worldwide climate strike that includes 1,400 events in 80 countries.

What else have activists said?

Luisa Neubauer, who heads the Fridays for Future German chapter, told French news agency AFP that they wanted to "create pressure from the streets" ahead of the September 26 vote.

"The political parties haven't taken the climate catastrophe seriously enough," Neubauer said, adding that young people wanted "no more excuses" from older politicians about the state of the world they will leave behind.

Jana Boltersdorf, another young climate activist, told DW she was marching "to give a voice to those who are not old enough to vote, but will suffer the most as a result of the climate crisis."

Young and without a voice?

Carla Reemstma, one of the organizers of the Fridays for Future rallies in Germany, told DW that politicians "are not treating the climate crisis like a crisis."

"We demand immediate actions to lower emissions, to stop fueling the climate crisis [and] to stop financing fossil fuels like coal and gas," she said.

FFF activist: German politicians 'not treating the climate crisis as a crisis'

What is the state of climate policy in Germany?

As Chancellor Angela Merkel's 16-year stint draws to a close, the leader once touted as the "climate chancellor" has failed to push forward any significant environmental legislation in the past decade.

In a landmark ruling in April, Germany's top court found the government's plans to curb CO2 emissions "insufficient" to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement and placed an "unfair burden" on future generations.

Speaking at the site of catastrophic flooding in western Germany in July, Merkel called on her successor to do more to tackle climate change, but did not address her own climate legacy.

Germany's struggling energy transition

With the Green Party polling in third place ahead of the election, it is possible that they could end up as a junior coalition partner in the next government, particularly considering that polls also show the climate as one of the most important topics to German voters.

However, the Greens' platform has been criticized as not being aggressive enough to combat the climate crisis by environmental experts.

How have the chancellor candidates responded?

Olaf Scholz, Germany's finance minister and the chancellor candidate for the Social Democratic Party (SPD), thanked the movement in a tweet. He said Fridays for Future had helped put climate change on the political agenda.

"I say emphatically that the fact that today is climate strike day is right," said Scholz, who is currently ranking first in the polls.

The candidate for Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Armin Laschet, ranking second in the polls, took to instagram to call for climate action. 

"It is completely clear to the CDU, and not since today, that Germany has to become faster and better on climate change," Laschet said.

The Greens Party's Annalena Baerbock, made an unexpected appearance at a climate protest in Cologne. 

"Just like in Cologne, tens of thousands of children, young people and people of all ages are taking to the streets today across Germany in the climate strike and making it clear: They want a new start because they know that the future of all of us is at stake," Baerbock said on Twitter.

DW's Jeannette Cwienk has contributed to this report

fb, es/rs (AFP, dpa)