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Germany's Olaf Scholz meets climate hunger strikers

November 12, 2021

Germany's chancellor-in-waiting, Olaf Scholz, has met two climate activists who staged a hunger strike to demand more radical climate policies. The pair ended their action after a preelection promise from Scholz.

Scholz agree to meet the pair a day ahead of the election that saw his party gain the largest share of the vote
Scholz agree to meet the pair a day ahead of the election that saw his party gain the largest share of the voteImage: Kay Nietfeld/dpa/picture alliance

Germany's expected next chancellor, Olaf Scholz, on Friday met climate activists Lea Bonasera and Henning Jeschke.

The pair, as part of the Last Generation group, had staged a hunger strike in the run-up to Germany's general election, demanding more urgent climate policies from Berlin.

What did they say?

In their meeting with Scholz in Berlin, Jeschke threatened a campaign of civil disobedience unless the government takes steps to stop food waste and also to drastically reform agriculture by 2030. 

"We will bring the federal republic to a standstill," Jeschke said, accusing Scholz of ignoring the catastrophic consequences of rising global temperatures.  

"No one has a plan to lead us out of this catastrophe," Jeschke said.

Scholz countered that he did have a plan, and accused the protesters of having a "fatalistic attitude." He pointed to a strategy for energy supply and industry to become carbon neutral by 2045, adding that even this was not easy.

German climate activists on hunger strike

"We have to make a real effort," Scholz said, urging the protesters to make more concrete proposals on how to tackle to crisis themselves, rather than simply describing the dangers.

He rejected the accusation that politicians were not taking the issue seriously. "I became a democratic politician because I want to change something," he said.

Why are they meeting now?

Bonasera and Jeschke broke off their hunger strike a day before the September vote — which saw Scholz's center-left Social Democrats (SPD) emerge as the largest party in Germany's Bundestag.

They did so after Scholz — then already favorite in the polls to emerge as leader of the largest party — agreed to meet them in person after the election.

Two junior parties are negotiating to run Germany alongside the SPD in a three-way coalition. They are the Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats. 

'We are incredibly desperate'

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Jeschke told radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk that existing climate policy was insufficient and leading to collapse.

"This course is a betrayal of our generation," Jeschke. said Should Scholz, not change Germany's course, "then I don't think that will be accepted," he said.

Meanwhile, Bonasera told broadcaster SWR on Friday: "We are incredibly desperate."

"This is an issue where it is a matter of life and death," she said.

Bonasera said she knew one conversation with Scholz alone would not solve the problems relating to the climate issue.

She said she sought an honest exchange about agriculture and the threat of famine.

Warning over coalition talks

Greens leader Robert Habeck on Friday warned of possible clouds on the horizon in coalition talks when it came to climate change.

He said ​that, if the parties could not honor the Greens' policy seeking to limit warming to a maximum of 1.5 degree Celsius, "then we will have failed in the coalition negotiations." However, he added: "Everything can be resolved with goodwill." 

A day earlier, Scholz had expressed hope that progress would be made, with a forecast of extra government revenue that might pave the way for more green investment.

rc/msh (AFP, dpa, epd)