There were protests around the world, but the urgency was heightened by people in Germany amid calls for the next government to do something about climate change.
BERLIN – Hundreds of thousands of young people around the world returned to the streets on Friday to demand action to stop the planet’s warming, many for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic has forced them into lockdown.
Protesters gathered in Bangladesh, Kenya, the Netherlands and several other countries. But nowhere was the call to action more urgent than in Germany, where an estimated several million people turned out in more than 400 cities, which pressured the winner of the national election on Sunday to put climate protection at the top of his agenda.
Greta Thunberg, an 18-year-old climate activist who launched a Friday for Future protest in Stockholm in 2018, skipping school as a way to shame the world for addressing climate change, guested at a protest in Berlin. appeared as.
“Yes, we should vote and you should vote, but remember voting will not be enough,” she told the crowd, urging them to stay motivated and keep the pressure on politicians.
“We can still change it. People are ready for change,” she said. “We demand change and we are change.”
People of all ages marched through the center of Berlin, then rallied on the lawn before the Reichstag, where Germany’s parliament meets. Thousands turned out for similar protests in other cities across the country.
Germans will elect new representatives to parliament on Sunday, and never before has the issue of climate change played such a role in a German election. Despite entering office in 2005 with the ambition to reduce carbon emissions, four successive governments under Chancellor Angela Merkel failed to reduce Germany’s carbon footprint. According to the World Bank, it remains in the top 10 most polluting countries in the world.
It has been young climate activists, inspired by Thunberg, who have been successful in bringing the climate debate to the fore in Germany’s political discourse. This year, they successfully took the government to court, reworking the 2019 law with more ambitious and detailed goals to reduce emissions by 2030 with the aim of bringing the country’s carbon emissions to nearly zero by 2050. forced to
Recent polls have shown that the next German government may consist of left-leaning environmentalists who many hope will bring about real change. The Social Democratic Party has been leading for several weeks, with the Greens firmly in third place, ahead of the conservative Christian Democrats, hoping whichever party wins will join them in the next government.
But some young Germans are concerned that even the environment-focused Greens may not aggressively policy to accelerate Germany’s exit from coal, which is currently scheduled for 2038. They are also demanding that Germany speed up its plan to reach climate neutrality, when net carbon emissions hit zero 10 years before the plan, to help limit global warming to 1.5 °C, enshrined in the Paris Agreement. defined lower limit.
“The past few months have shown how dishonestly the parties are campaigning on the climate crisis, not even advocating for adequate measures to tackle it,” said Friday for Future Germany spokeswoman Maya Stimmag. Is.”
“As one of the main polluters, Germany must eventually stop the destruction,” she said. “Without our great pressure on the streets, no coalition would hold a 1.5-degree limit after the election.”
Alexandra Petrikat, an entrepreneur and mother of two young children who took part in the Berlin demonstration, said she was impressed by how peaceful and respectful the protesters were. At the same time, she said that his message was loud and clear.
“I think we have sent a signal that whoever forms the next government can’t take their eyes off our demands,” Ms Petrikat said. “We won’t give up. We’ll keep growing And we’ll keep the pressure up.”
Christopher F. schuetz Contributed reporting.