Updated: Jul 14
With the weekly ‘Fridays for Future’ protests now ground to a halt, activists have taken to social media to voice their concerns over climate change.
In the face of the coronavirus, there has been concern as to how the climate justice movement will maintain momentum. While previous ‘Fridays for Future’ events saw thousands of Germans flood the streets, social distancing and lockdown measures have meant that no public protests have taken place since March. All talks and meetings planned for the spring and summer months have either been postponed or cancelled.
Instead, last Friday, the Global Climate Strike took place online. Activists in Germany took part using the hashtag #Netzstreikfürsklima (Internet strike for the climate), posting photos, videos and messages in support of the cause. The German division of Fridays for Future also ran a livestream on their YouTube Channel, which amassed 214,000 views. The stream included speeches from activists, video discussions with scientists and politicians, and performances from musicians. Frequent uploads on the channel have ensured that German climate activists can maintain an influential presence; Thunberg, journalist Tilo Jung, singer Henning May from the band AnnenMayKantereit and scientists such as Dr. Jens Förster are among those interviewed.
In Berlin, an art campaign also took place to coincide with the online event. A small team of activists wearing gloves and facemasks displayed an estimated ten thousand protest banners and posters at key locations across the capital, including the Reichstag. The installation was centred around the hashtag #FightEveryCrisis, likening the strategy of ‘flattening the curve’ - reducing the spread of coronavirus infections in order to avoid health services becoming overwhelmed - to the need to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving global warming.
Svenja Schulze, the German Minister for the Environment, drew on this comparison when speaking at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue on Monday, stating, “Unlike the fight against the coronavirus, we already know the vaccines against the climate crisis”, listing renewable energy sources, electromobility and recycling as readily-available, affordable solutions.
In Cologne, bicycle protests have also taken place. Cyclists ride through the city in pairs at a safe distance from one another, using microphones to make their voices heard.
The Fridays for Future movement first took shape in Germany after teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg’s first school strike outside the Swedish parliament in September 2018, inspiring mounting national protests for a greener future. By December, there were mass Fridays for Future demonstrations taking place in nearly every major German city. The following year, a seminal moment for the youth-led movement was its largest protest to date on 20th September 2019, which saw an estimated national turnout of 1.4 million.
This nascent environmental activism was praised by Angela Merkel as “a very good initiative” and led the government to commit to a divergence from fossil fuels. The German Parliament passed a €54 billion proposal to cut emissions by 55% before 2030, proposed a carbon tax for industry and transportation and promised initial subsidies for renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. 2038 was set as the year by which Germany would shut down all coal-fired power plants, pledging €40 billion in aid of this transition.
In recent years, Germans have born witness to a second wave of the Energiewende; a movement away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy which first emerged in the early 2000s. Die Grünen, Germany’s Green Party, have seen a major surge in support, welcoming over 100,000 new members in 2018 and taking 20.5% of the national vote in the 2019 European elections.
Demands for climate justice persevere, with activists hoping that lessons learnt from the Covid-19 outbreak can be applied to the climate crisis when public demonstrations resume.
In an interview with Frankfurter Rundschau, 23-year old Luisa Neubauer, who is often referred to as “Germany’s Greta”, said: “The best scenario is that we make this [coronavirus] crisis experience a crisis management experience and conserve these experiences for the climate crisis. In all the chaos, all the suffering and the stress, it can be a gentle glimmer of hope.”