Germany cuts carbon emissions. Not fast enough, young generation says.

Germany’s climate-conscious young generation finally has the political wind at its back. After the recent national election, two smaller parties backed heavily by first-time voters are now set to join a new coalition government.

This comes on the heels of a historic court decision in April, ruling that the government’s existing climate action law was “insufficient” and “violate[s] the freedoms of the complainants, some of whom are very young.”

Why We Wrote This

Germany aims to help Europe rule toward a greener future, in addition it nevertheless burns lots of coal. Now a young generation is demanding to see goals equaled by actions.

Youthful protesters have had much to decry. Germany’s clean energy change has been fitful, with an sudden phaseout of nuclear strength and a reliance on coal that’s been tough to shake. 

To hit the nation’s target of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions 65% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels, requires nothing less than a “basic restructuring” from strength plants to buildings and factories, according to a recent Federation of German Industries report. 

The estimated cost, equal to 2.5% of Germany’s economic output, is “a lot of money,” says Matthias Zelinger, an energy expert at VDMA, an engineering industry association. “however, it is less than we’ve invested in the merger of [post-1989] Germany, east and west. So it’s our generation’s project. It’s hard, but it’s not undoable. We have to be fast and efficient.”

Berlin

Joelle Sander had expected no more than 200 people at the climate strike she organized in September in her hometown of Wiesbaden as part of a global youth-led event. It took place two days before Germany’s federal election, the first in 16 years without Angela Merkel on the ballot.

That day, 2,000 strikers showed up in Wiesbaden. “So much is finally happening after two years of corona. The global strike gave me hope that people nevertheless care about climate action, and that our future isn’t dead,” says Ms. Sander, an 18-year-old vegetarian.

In the German capital, around 100,000 climate marchers streamed toward the Bundestag, clogging up car traffic. “Germany is the fourth largest emitter of carbon dioxide in history, and that with a population of 80 million people,” Greta Thunberg, the Swedish climate activist who had traveled to Berlin for the strike, told a crowd. Across Germany, more than 600,000 people gathered on Sept. 24 at various climate events, say organizers.

Why We Wrote This

Germany aims to help Europe rule toward a greener future, in addition it nevertheless burns lots of coal. Now a young generation is demanding to see goals equaled by actions.

As the election showed, Germany’s climate-conscious young generation finally has the political wind at its back: First-time voters overwhelmingly cast ballots for two smaller political parties, whose platforms promised bold climate action. Both parties are now set to join a new coalition government.

This comes on the heels of a historic decision in April by Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court, which ruled that the government’s existing climate action law was “insufficient” and “violate[s] the freedoms of the complainants, some of whom are very young.”

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