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Last Generation activists pose as politicians to block roads

July 14, 2023

Masked climate activists blocked traffic in Berlin, claiming the government has broken the law. The group defended protests a day earlier that blocked airport runways.

Protesters around the Victory Column in Berlin, wearing masks
The protesters claim the government is breaking the law and not acting fast enough on climate changeImage: Paul Zinken/dpa

Activists from Germany's Last Generation (Letzte Generation) climate protest group protested at one of Berlin's most iconic intersections during the morning rush hour on Friday, with other actions planned across the city and the rest of Germany.

The campaigners, who claim the government has broken its own laws on climate change, wore masks depicting senior politicians.

What happened in the latest protest?

Activists took to the roundabout around the city's Victory Column — regularly used as a stage for weekend climate protests — and glued themselves to roads leading from it.

The so-called Grosser Stern (Great Star) intersection is a key rush-hour hub. Some motorists drove off the road to avoid the protesters and continue their journeys. Traffic resumed fully about an hour after the sit-in began. 

Some activists posed government figures including Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Economics and Climate Change Minister Robert Habeck, and Transport Minister Volker Wissing. They held banners that read: "We're breaking the law."

The group claims that the coalition has failed in its legal duty to submit an immediate strategy for Germany to comply with its own Climate Protection Act to achieve greenhouse gas neutrality by 2045.

It had promised an action that "makes the government's breach of the law transparent."

Climate activists protest by any means

The government claims its draft climate protection program includes far-reaching measures for the transport sector, and fulfills its obligation to submit additional climate protection measures.

Wider actions nationwide

Further actions across the capital were planned on Friday, including one at Berlin's main train station. Police also said protesters had blocked traffic near Germany's Reichstag parliament building and the Brandenburg Gate.

Last Generation said 36 sit-ins were planned Friday in 26 cities across Germany.

A day earlier, protesters attached themselves to runways at Hamburg and Düsseldorf airports — prompting calls for tough penalties against activists. In May, large-scale raids targeted members of the group. 

However, Last Generation spokeswoman Lina Johnsen said the protests were out of necessity because the government had been breaking its own rules.

"It is the responsibility of politicians to protect what we need for life. And they are knowingly not doing that by continuing to break their own climate protection goals," said Johnsen.

Germany, Europe's biggest polluter, is obliged by national law to cut greenhouse gas pollution 65% from 1990 levels by the end of the decade for each sector — power, buildings, transport, industry, agriculture and waste.

In June, the government agreed to ditch sectoral targets and instead shoot only for the overarching 2030 target. Scientists fear that letting progress in some sectors compensate for failures in others will delay fixes and make the 2030 goal harder to hit.

rc/sms (dpa, AFP)

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