News
20 Mar 2023, 12:10
Benjamin Wehrmann

German cities debate giving in to climate activists' demands to end protests

ZDF / Clean Energy Wire

Several German cities are considering, or are already brokering, deals with climate activists from the group Last Generation to end their disruptive protests in exchange for climate action commitments, public broadcaster ZDF reported. Last Generation contacted authorities in various cities with their offer to cease protest activities, such as blocking roads, if an official commitment is made to quickly introduce effective emissions reduction measures, and install formats such as ‘citizen councils’ to decide on the future course of their cities’ climate action. Otherwise, the cities faced “a maximum disruption of public order”, the activist group warned. The governments of major cities like Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne forcefully rejected the offer, but other administrations showed greater openness to negotiate with the activists.

Hanover, the state capital of Lower Saxony with a population of more than half a million people, was the first major city to strike a deal with Last Generation. Mayor Belit Onay, from the Green Party, rejected the idea that his administration had given in to blackmailing by the activists when agreeing the deal in early March, arguing that the agreement would not force the city to do something its citizens opposed. “That’s not the case here,” Onay said, arguing that “we have a common denominator and that is protecting the climate”. Smaller towns, such as Marburg or Tübingen, quickly followed Hanover’s example. A ZDF survey found that more than half of the people in Germany (55%) support brokering deals with the activists, whereas about 41 percent rejected the approach. Last Generation representatives said they welcomed the fact that “more and more politicians (…) understand that our core demands are of existential importance and that we protest for the common good”.

Protests by Last Generation in Germany greatly increased in their number and impact throughout 2022. Activists repeatedly disturbed inner city traffic by gluing themselves to the asphalt, or startled museum visitors by tainting exhibition pieces with washable paint and other substances. Many conservative politicians criticised the protests and called for harsh punishments, while even more sympathetic lawmakers - for example from the Green Party - warned the escalation of protest methods is counterproductive and could alienate citizens who generally support stronger climate action.

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