German students strike for coal exit and green future


School students on strike outside the German Reichstag. Some have Kohle stoppen or end coal written on their faces.

On Friday 14 December 2018, secondary school students in Berlin and 13 other German cities followed their peers in Sweden and Australia and skipped class to strike for climate protection.

Some hundreds of students attended a three hour rally outside the German Reichstag (parliament buildings). They called on the German government to end coal mining immediately, describing the practice as “climate killer number one”. Without such a coal exit, Germany is set to miss its 2020 climate targets by a substantial 8%‑points (Amelang 2017, Wehrmann 2017).

Organizer Luisa Neubauer, a 22‑year old university geography student, told WikiTribune that the coal exit “is a must do, it is not a question, it’s not even a question of time, because we know we have to quit coal now”. She added that the exit “needs to be fair and just, no one ever questioned that our transition must be just”.

Neubauer believes that missing the 2020 climate target is outrageous because it is not a technical question but a political one, that the German government decided to miss these targets. She stressed that other countries look to “Germany as a Vorreiter or trailblazer, as a tremendously important country for what we do and don’t do”.

School strikes for the climate originated with 15‑year old Greta Thunberg who, on 20 August 2018, went to the Swedish Riksdag (parliament buildings) instead of school to protest at what she saw as an abject lack of action on climate protection by her own government (Thunberg 2018). The idea of school strikes has since snowballed to other countries.

Student placard expressing frustration

When asked what kind of world would eventuate if no action is taken, Neubauer replied “I don’t think it is even possible to imagine that” and then, on reflection, suggested that there would be “tremendous issues with feeding people, with people fleeing their countries because they are not able to survive where they come from”.

Neubauer said her generation is being let down by politicians: “the consequences of everything we do about the Kohleausstieg or coal exit today is about our future and the people who make decisions today, they won’t be there any more when these consequences will come into real life”.

When asked whether this was fair, Neubauer replied “of course not, it is more than unfair, we know if people would have taken care of this 30 years ago I wouldn’t be standing here with you and I wish I wasn’t, the fact that I am striking here today is very sad”. She quickly added that she is taking a stand “because I don’t want to tell my kids that we have failed to do something about the crisis when we still could”.

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