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Climate movement and Greens: No longer green


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Status: 09/23/2022 10:52 a.m

For a long time, “Fridays for Future” took to the streets together with the Greens. But since the party has been in government, the relationship has cooled. Today the movement calls for protests again.

By Corinna Emundts, tagesschau.de

Somehow times have changed quite a bit for the “Fridays for Future” movement in Germany: The Greens, who were welcome supporters before they took part in the government, are calling for a climate strike on September 23 with their goal of “a climate-neutral society”. But this time, when they called the digital network Twitter, they promptly received a verbal slap in the face from “Fridays for Future Germany”: “We will also demonstrate against your politics on Friday!”

After the general election, one could have thought that “Fridays for Future” had fulfilled its purpose and thus rendered itself superfluous. Because the Greens, a party that has long been fighting for more climate protection, came back to government for the first time in 16 years. This is undoubtedly also a success of the “Fridays for Future” movement, as can be seen with the Greens. Because the party benefited from the wave of attention that created tens of thousands of students for climate protection.

“We are in a new phase”

“We are now in a new phase,” says Luisa Neubauer, activist with “Fridays for Future”, in an interview with the ARD Capital Studio. Three years ago, they took to the streets to convince the grand coalition “to at least whisper about climate protection.” Meanwhile – with the Greens in government – the traffic light coalition would block each other and fall back into a “fossil renaissance”.

In fact, since the Russian attack on Ukraine and the resulting energy crisis, the traffic light coalition has come under increasing criticism from climate researchers for not doing enough. And hey presto – this creates renewed legitimacy for the climate-striking youth: “The movement now also has a function as an extra-parliamentary opposition, because climate protection is falling behind in current politics” – says Brigitte Knopf, who works as a climate scientist in the the “Expert Council for Climate Issues” set up by the Bundestag.

The physicist attributes “Fridays for Future” to a major impact for the past few years since it was founded in 2018 and the huge demonstration in 2019: “I believe that this movement has had a huge impact on the climate protection debate. We climate researchers thought for a long time, constantly Drops wear away the stone, but politicians reacted far too slowly.” “Fridays for Future” brought the topic to the streets and young people brought it to their parents at the family dinner table.

Actually, thinks climate activist Neubauer, the federal government must have an authority that really feels responsible for climate protection – and also has the power to “stop the fossil projects of Scholz, Lindner and Co. from time to time”. But as there is no such thing, “we have to be this authority, that’s why we take to the streets.” There is a lot of disillusionment about the Greens’ participation in government between the lines. The movement is currently focusing more on the “fossil Chancellor Scholz” in its calls and posters for the climate strike and is not attacking the Greens directly.

“Special fund” required for climate protection

And yet they are now held jointly responsible for neglecting climate protection. In the name of “Fridays for Future”, Neubauer demanded a public campaign of his own “Special fund” of 100 billion euros for climate protection, analogous to the special fund for the Bundeswehr created by the Scholz government during the Ukraine war. A demand that Marcel Fratzscher, head of the German Institute for Economic Research, publicly supports. This shows that “Fridays for Future” is taken seriously as a political actor. With so much headwind, the eco-party can come across as a weakling within the government – which could cost votes from disappointed climate protectors in the next election.

But the Greens still react with sympathy to the ongoing pressure from the streets, which has long since gone beyond the youth and the “Scientists for Future” who helped support them very early on. In the meantime, many other like-minded groups such as educators, psychologists or trainees are calling for the strike with the title “… for Future”. “I’m happy for the climate movement that we have these demands from the progressive side, such as those for 100 billion for climate protection,” says Lisa Badum, a member of the Green Bundestag, in an interview tagesschau.de.

Every government needs social movements that deceive them and also create pressure to act: “Because we are currently having a discussion about energy policy, but where there is very little public climate policy,” says Badum, who was delegated by the parliamentary group as chairwoman to the committee for climate protection is.

It remains to be seen whether it will be a permanent movement

Even if the record numbers that “Fridays for Future” was able to mobilize together with a large, co-supporting action alliance before the pandemic 2019 are not expected for the first major global climate strike this year for Germany: The movement researcher and political scientist Sebastian Haunss estimates “Fridays for Future ” continues as an established new social movement: “It addresses an incredibly important issue of high relevance and social acceptance”.

Ultimately, however, it will be decisive for further success whether mass protests continue. This has an effect on politics, you can see it in the anti-nuclear movement, which has been able to mobilize for many years.

The political scientist Wolfgang Kraushaar is more skeptical: “You can’t trust that it’s possible to maintain the ability to mobilize for years or even decades.” In view of the long duration of the climate crisis, cooperation with politically important partners at national and international level is essential. “It’s great that there was input from Greta Thunberg and ‘Fridays for Future’, but it’s far from enough.”

With information from Fabian Janssen, ARD capital studio

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