Students around the world are demonstrating for more climate protection. In Germany, hundreds of thousands took to the streets. The “FridaysforFuture” movement is pushing politicians to take a stance – and the federal government makes climate protection a top priority.
For months, young people in many countries around the world have been boycotting classes once a week to express their displeasure at the lack of measures to combat global warming. Today the actions were extended to a first global protest day. According to the organisers, young people took to the streets in almost 1700 cities around the world – from Finland to South Africa. In Oceania and Asia, demonstrations started in the morning, with actions in Sydney, Bangkok and Hong Kong, among others.
‘#Fridaysforfuture’ also mobilized hundreds of thousands of people in Germany. Across Germany 220 protests were announced, in which – according to the organizers – about 300,000 people took part. The highest number of people rallied in the capital, although the number of participants varied according to the source. The police counted up to 20,000 people arriving by train. According to the authorities, about 10,000 participants gathered in Munich, 6,000 gathered in Frankfurt am Main. There were also protests in other cities such as Cologne, Bremen, Hanover and Nuremberg.
Greta Thunberg’s ‘Skolstrejk för klimatet’ initiated the movement
The school strikes were inspired by the 16-year-old Swede Greta Thunberg, who last year had begun to demonstrate in front of the Swedish parliament on her own – in the meantime she has even been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
The weekly protests are spreading more and more. Politicians’ warnings that students should rather go to school and leave the fight against climate change to professionals have received fierce pushback. One of the organisers in Berlin, Luisa Neubauer, warned the politicians to listen to the young people. According to her, at the European elections in May, everyone should consider whether they can still vote for a party that had no plan for the future and the climate.
The movement, which was originally initiated by young people, is also receiving support from other generations. Around 12,000 scientists from Germany, Austria and Switzerland have signed a statement to support the cause of the climate movement – keyword: “Scientists for future”. Parents are also supporting young peopleunder the slogan “Parents for Future”. Among other things, they ask that school expulsions or other disciplinary measures be waived if pupils fail to attend school because of protests.
A lot of respect from politicians – but also criticism
In a session of the Bundestag, all parties except the AfD paid respect to the participants of the “Friday for Future” protests. For example, Thomas Oppermann, Vice President of the Bundestag, emphasized: “These demonstrations are a contribution to democratic decision-making.”
Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze also praised the movement. She was grateful “for the wake-up call”, but at the same time she rejected the accusation of many participants that nothing was happening when it came to climate protection. One example is the decision to phase out coal production.
But despite the approval for the protest, several politicians, such as Education Minister Anja Karliczek and CSU politician Anja Weisgerber, also called for young people to respect the law. The parliamentary party leader of the Greens, Anton Hofreiter pushed back against this notion: Instead of conducting a “strange debate” about compulsory schooling, the federal government should rather work on taking “real measures” for climate protection.
According to him, the newly formed climate cabinet, however, is not one of them for him. The committee is to prepare the legally binding implementation of the Paris climate protection targets for the year 2030. But Hofreiter criticised: “High-profile names can’t hide it: The German federal government has no idea what to do about climate protection and is setting up a committee instead.”
AfD questions scientific consensus on man-made global warming
The AfD, on the other hand, sharply criticized the protest movement and the praise of the other parties in the Bundestag. Oppermann, for example, was accused of “taking sides for illegal actions” because the pupils deliberately violated the law by not going to school. The delegate Marc Jongen expressed scepticism toward man-made climatic change and called financial expenditures for climatic protection a waste of money.
Last week, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier had chymed in and also welcomed the student protests. Many adults had not yet noticed “that it is five to midnight”, Steinmeier said in Neumünster to pupils of a “Fridays For Future” rally. “We need young people like you to get involved.”