Climate protests criticized; but Germany missing 2030 goal
BERLIN (AP) — German officials urged environmental activists to engage in “constructive” protests and avoid endangering lives Friday as government-appointed experts warned that the key European Union country risks missing its climate targets for 2030.
A heated debate has broken out over activists’ methods after road blockades caused by a Monday protest delayed a specialist rescue crew from reaching a cyclist fatally injured in a traffic accident in Berlin. Some German media declared the protesters “shared the blame” for the woman’s death.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz “supports all democratic engagement, and we have repeatedly stressed that in connection with the climate protests,” Wolfgang Buechner, the chancellor’s spokesperson, told reporters. “But the form of protest that we are seeing now, this week in particular, is not effective or constructive.”
Buechner noted Scholz had stressed Monday that protests must not lead to endangering other people.
“People’s lives must not be endangered, and so we do not accept this form of protest,” Buechner said, urging instead protests that unite society to work for faster climate change.
The chancellor’s spokesman insisted that protecting the climate was “the central concern” of the German government and said it was already working hard on “ambitious” policy aims.
“Our aim is very clear: We, as the whole German government, want to implement effective climate policy, and we are making that clear with our determination to act,” he said.
Europe’s biggest economy wants to slash greenhouse gas emissions by at least 65% from 1990 levels by 2030 and has plans in place to sharply boost renewable energy production while phasing out fossil fuels.
But the government’s own advisers cast doubt Friday on Germany’s ability to meet that target, saying the country needs to reduce its emissions twice as fast as the yearly average from over the past decade. In some sectors, such as industry and transportation, the cuts would need to be 10 times higher or more, the five-member panel said.
Its chair, Hans-Martin Henning of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, said Germany’s efforts to improve energy efficiency were being undone by higher consumption, such as from larger homes and increased mobility.
The panel’s findings are a blow to Germany’s green credentials ahead of this year’s U.N. climate talks in Egypt, which start next week.
Facing an energy crunch as a result of Russia’s war on Ukraine, the German government announced plans to reactivate old oil and coal-fired power stations, import more liquefied natural gas and extract more coal from its own mines, angering climate activists.
The government insists the measures are temporary and the overall shift to clean energy will be accelerated. On Thursday, Germany inked a preliminary deal to buy more natural gas from Egypt and to help the North African nation develop production facilities for hydrogen.
Germany has also tried to make up for its own high historical emissions by helping countries that are now bearing the brunt of global warming’s impacts. The government said Friday that it would provide Peru with about 352 million euros ($345 million) to help the Latin American nation improve its public transit system and to combat deforestation in the Amazon.
Activists from the group Uprising of the Last Generation, which staged the museum protests and road blockades, expressed sadness at the cyclists’s death Friday, but said they would continue to protest until the German government does enough to tackle the climate crisis.
The Germany daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung on Friday cited a confidential report by the emergency doctor at the scene of the crash stating that the delayed arrival of the specialist crew made no difference to the victim’s medical treatment.
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