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ENVIRONMENT

Thousands protest in Berlin against industrialised agriculture

Thousands of protesters, backed by a procession of farm tractors, marched in Berlin Saturday for environmental protection and against the industrial agriculture lobby.

Thousands protest in Berlin against industrialised agriculture
Photo: DPA

Police put the number of demonstrators at over 12,000, while organisers said 35,000 turned out.

While the “Grüne Woche” international agricultural fair was taking place in the German capital, the protesters took aim at government policy which prioritised large-scale farming, deemed damaging to health and the environment, to the detriment of small farmers and bio-growers.

“This protest… shows that the desire for a different agricultural policy is now undeniable,” said Green party co-leader Robert Habeck, who took part in Saturday's demonstration.

Conservative Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner has received “an unequivocal message” from the street, said Saskia Richartz, spokeswoman for the protest organisers.

“We can't feed the whole world if we reduce industrial agricultural production,” the agriculture minister responded, while admitting that the sector needs to be “more efficient and respectful of the environment”.

More than 100 organisations took part in Saturday's colourful march, with 171 tractors descending on Berlin from several parts of the country.

The ministerial quarter around Brandenburg Gate remained partially blocked for several hours before the protest broke up peacefully.

READ ALSO: How Germany's environment minister plans to turn around plastic use

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ENVIRONMENT

Young activists take German states to court over climate inaction

Campaigners began a legal challenge against five German regions on Monday to force them to take stronger action on climate change, emboldened by a landmark recent court ruling in favour of environmental protection.

Young activists take German states to court over climate inaction
Demonstrators from the Fridays for Future movement protest in Gießen, Hesse, with a sign saying "No wishy-washy, no climate lashing". Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

The plaintiffs are basing their case on a sensational verdict by Germany’s constitutional court in April which found that Germany’s plans to curb CO2 emissions were insufficient to meet the targets of the Paris climate agreement and placed an unfair burden on future generations.

In a major win for activists, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s federal government then brought forward its date for carbon neutrality by five years to 2045, and raised its 2030 target for greenhouse gas reductions.

READ ALSO: 

On Monday, 16 children and young adults began proceedings against the regions of Hesse, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saarland, with support of environmental NGO Environmental Action Germany (DUH).

They are charging that none of the states targeted by the legal action have passed sufficiently strong climate legislation at the local level, according to DUH.

“The federal government can’t succeed on its own,” lead lawyer Remo Klinger said in a press conference, highlighting state competence in the area of transport.

DUH worked closely together with the youth climate movement Fridays For Future to find activists willing to front the challenges, the group said.

Seventeen-year-old plaintiff Alena Hochstadt said the western state of Hesse, known for its Frankfurt banking hub, had always been her home but she feared having “no future here”.

Concern about the risk of “floods, storms and droughts” led her and other campaigners to seek “a legal basis for binding climate protection”.

READ ALSO: Climate change made German floods ‘more likely and more intense’

Hesse’s ministers for climate and the economy said they were “surprised” by the announcement.

“DUH clearly has not yet understood that we in Hesse are well ahead,” Priska Hinz and Tarek Al-Wazir said in a joint statement, drawing attention to an energy future law from 2012, before the Paris climate agreement.

In July, DUH-supported activists took the states of Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Brandenburg to court on similar grounds.

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