10 Jan 2023, 13:53
Benjamin Wehrmann

Expression ‘climate terrorists’ that criminalises activists voted Germany’s ‘non-word’ 2022

Clean Energy Wire

A jury of linguists and journalists has picked the expression ‘climate terrorists’ (Klimaterroristen) as Germany’s ‘non-word’ (Unwort) of the year 2022, the initiative “Unwort des Jahres” said. The term has been used to ‘discredit’ actors that “advocate an implementation of climate measures and meeting the Paris Climate Agreement’s targets,” the jury of the critical award conferred since 1991 said. “The jury criticises the term’s use because climate activists are equated with terrorists, which criminalises and defames them,” the organisation argued. Terrorism would denote the “systematic spreading of fear and loathing by radical physical violence,” which perpetrators would carry out using “destruction, death and murder”, the group added. Denoting peaceful climate activists, who use no violence to further their cause, as terrorists aims to paint them as aggressive “enemies of the state” and shift the debate away from their “legitimate” demands about environmental protection, the jury said.

The term “climate terrorists” has been used mainly in the context of actions by the Last Generation (Letzte Generation) group, which uses non-violent acts of civil disobedience, such as blocking roads, to bring attention to their environmental policy demands. While representatives of the political right, including conservative opposition alliance CDU/CSU have been most vocal in criticising climate activists, chancellor Olaf Scholz from the Social Democrats (SPD) has also openly denounced some tactics adopted by climate protest groups as radical. Parts of the Green Party have also criticised Letzte Generation’s actions as counterproductive to a social consensus on climate action, while party co-leader Ricarda Lang called the group’s actions "partly justified." 

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