Germany’s climate activists step up pressure on next government

More than 10,000 climate activists are expected to take part in a march in Berlin this Friday to call on Germany's next government to implement an ambitious 100-day climate plan in the first few months of their administration.

Olaf Scholz and climate activists from Fridays for Future
SPD chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz arrives for pre-coalition talks in Berlin on October 15th as activists from Fridays for Future protest with a banner that reads: "Our future is non-negotiable". Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

The march, which was organised by Friday for Future Germany, comes just a day after coalition negotiations between the SPD, the Greens and the FDP kicked off in the German capital. 

Under the protest slogan, “You leave us no choice”, the climate group wants underpin its climate protection demands for the new government.

Activists from all over Germany are expected to congregate for the march in Berlin, while smaller demonstrations are also planned in Baden-Württemburg and Thuringia. 

The demonstrators will start at 12 noon at the Brandenburg Gate and then march through the government district. At around the same time on Friday, Greta Thunberg, the climate activist and founder of the Fridays for Future movement, will be leading a climate rally in her home town of Stockholm.

At the last Fridays for Future strike on Friday, September 24th, Thunberg had joined an estimated 100,000 people at a march in Berlin to raise awareness of the urgency of climate protections ahead of the German federal elections.

READ ALSO: Greta Thunberg joins German climate strikes before vote ‘of a century’

After a lightning-quick round of pre-coalition talks, the SPD, the Greens and the FDP kicked off their formal coalition negotiations in Berlin on Thursday. The three parties have agreed on an ambitious timetable: in the week from December 6-10th, they want to form a joint federal government with Chancellor Olaf Scholz at its head.

No further meetings are planned for the coming days, but talks are set to continue after the constituent session of the Bundestag on Tuesday.

Climate demands 

On Wednesday – a day before the start of the formal coalition talks – Fridays for Future Germany presented six key demands for the first 100 days of the next federal government. These demands include:

  • A legally-binding CO2 ‘budget’ that conforms to the Paris Accord’s 1.5C climate targets
  • A binding coal phase-out by 2030
  • A ban on the installation of fossil combustion engines from 2025
  • An immediate stop to motorway and federal highway expansion
  • €14 billion to fund international climate protection measures 
  • A sevenfold expansion in wind and solar energy 

“We have no more time for legislative periods full of empty promises,” said Fridays for Future activist Luisa Neubauer as she tweeted to announce the plan for the march. 

Meanwhile, Green Party leader Annalena Baerbock has defended herself against the accusation that climate targets of the current federal government could be watered down in a future coalition.

“If we were to fall short of the targets, then we can take this whole paper and throw it in the bin,” Baerbock said on Thursday evening in an interview on ZDF. In its initial coalition paper, the three parties have agreed to transition away from coal entirely by 2030 – a policy from the Green Party manifesto – but the extent of further climate protections could be a sticking point as serious negotiations begin. 

READ ALSO: The five biggest hurdles for Germany’s coalition talks

In recent days, CDU politician Norbert Röttgen has criticised the plans of the ‘traffic light’ coalition – named after the colours of the three parties – on climate protection. Just a few weeks before the start of the World Climate Conference in Glasgow, it isn’t clear what the coalition’s “hallmark” policies on climate protection will be, Röttgen said.

A future traffic light coalition would simply continue the status quo of conducting occasional audits of business sectors to see if they were successfully reducing emissions, he argued. These sector reviews were a key part of the CDU/CSU and SPD’s climate policy during the Grand Coalition’s two terms in government. 

However, SPD Secretary General Lars Klingbeil expressed confidence ahead of further coalition talks.

“Every party has been very well represented in the exploratory talks,” he told the Funke Media Group on Friday. “In the coalition negotiations, it is a matter of making things much more concrete. But the common framework for a new beginning is in place.”

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‘A good thing’ for footballers to express values, says France’s PM

France's Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne - speaking in Berlin - said that footballers should be allowed to express their values, amid controversy over FIFA's stance against the 'OneLove' armband on the pitch.

'A good thing' for footballers to express values, says France's PM

“There are rules for what happens on the field but I think it’s a good thing for players to be able to express themselves on the values that we obviously completely share, while respecting the rules of the tournament,” said Borne at a press conference in Berlin on Friday.

Germany’s players made headlines before Wednesday’s shock loss to Japan when the team lined up for their pre-match photo with their hands covering their mouths after FIFA’s threat to sanction players wearing the rainbow-themed armband.

Seven European nations, including Germany, had previously planned for their captains to wear the armband, but backed down over FIFA’s warning.

Following Germany’s action, Wales and the Netherlands have since come out to say they would not mirror the protest.

Borne’s visit to Germany was her first since she was named to her post in May.

Following talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the two leaders signed an agreement for “mutual support” on “guaranteeing their energy supplies”.

Concrete measures outlined in the deal include France sending Germany gas supplies as Berlin seeks to make up for gaping holes in deliveries from Russia.

Germany meanwhile would help France “secure its electricity supplies over winter”, according to the document.

France had since 1981 been a net exporter of electricity to its neighbours because of its nuclear plants. But maintenance issues dogging the plants have left France at risk of power cuts in case of an extremely cold winter.

The two leaders also affirmed their countries’ commitment to backing Ukraine “to the end of” its conflict with invaders Russia.