What's annoying about the Paris climate agreement
"We afford too much arrogance in terms of climate policy"
She is the German front woman of Fridays for Future: Luisa Neubauer tours Europe for the future of her generation. She spoke to FINK.HAMBURG about the job offer from Siemens, the CO2 tax and her life as a climate protection activist.
Luisa Neubauer was born in Hamburg and is one of the main organizers of the Fridays for Future climate movement initiated by Greta Thunberg. That's why she stands at almost every major strike on Germany's streets, argues with politicians at panel discussions and, together with the Fridays for Future activist Alexander Repenning, wrote the book “From the end of the climate crisis. Our story of the future ”. The 23-year-old also studies geography in Göttingen.
Luisa Neubauer sees herself as part of the so-called Paris generation: young people who, after the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, thought that politics would now act and now criticize that hardly anything has changed.
Does it annoy you to be the "German Greta Thunberg" in the national media?
Neubauer: No, I can understand that it works in the media. But of course this ascription is not entirely accurate. But it's okay, I can live with it.
What was the most important event for you and Fridays for Future last year?
Neubauer: The most important thing was what Fridays for Future did this year. At millions of dining tables, desks, in conference rooms, in plenary halls and even at thousands of Fridays for Future demos, a debate about climate protection has arisen that has never existed before.
Siemens and Luisa Neubauer
During a conversation about the construction of a controversial coal mine in Australia, Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser offered Luisa Neubauer a position on the supervisory board. Siemens is supplying a train signal system for the construction of the so-called Adani mine. According to the plans of the Indian Adani Group, the mine is to become one of the world's largest mines with an annual output of up to 60 million tons of coal. For comparison: up to 169 million tons of coal are mined throughout Germany every year.
Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser has offered you a position on the supervisory board of the future company Siemens Energy. You declined and instead suggested filling the position with a scientist from Scientists for Future. Why? Not in the mood for well-paid work?
Neubauer: Regardless of the financial offer, this position cannot be reconciled with what I am committed to as a climate activist: pursuing the 1.5 degree target (of the Paris Agreement, editor's note) and a stringent climate policy. In a position on the Supervisory Board, I would not have been able to comment on Siemens independently. I would be biased and that's why, after much deliberation, I declined. By the way, I do my climate activism free of charge.
Siemens has decided to continue to participate in the construction of the controversial Adani mine in Australia. Your opinion on that?
Neubauer: I commented on that as a historical wrong decision because we know that the Adani mine must not be implemented in this way. You endanger the 1.5 degree target. There is immense explosive power in the coal project. Siemens is thus massively complicit in global warming.
Did Siemens want to see you on the board to buy in critics?
Neubauer: I wouldn't want to blame Mr Kaeser for that, I find that arrogant. But from a PR perspective, the timing was of course good - at least temporarily. Now Mr. Kaeser is probably more stressed than I am.
Together with other climate activists and environmental organizations such as Germanwatch and Greenpeace, you have filed a constitutional complaint against the federal government's climate law before the Federal Constitutional Court. What are you hoping for from this?
Climate targets for 2030
Fridays for Future demands compliance with the goals of the Paris Agreement of 2015 and the 1.5 degree target contained therein. The explicit demands for Germany include a net zero of greenhouse gas emissions by 2035, a coal phase-out and 100 percent renewable energy supply by 2035. In order to achieve the 1.5 degree target as quickly as possible, Fridays for Future is calling for an end to subsidies, among other things for fossil fuels and a CO2 tax on all greenhouse gas emissions.
Neubauer:The state violates its duty to protect by inadequate climate protection because it does not adhere to the Paris Agreement. We hope the lawsuit will go through, as it did recently in a very similar case in the Netherlands. There, environmentalists from the Urgenda organization and private plaintiffs filed practically the same lawsuit in the Dutch context. And ultimately they also won: according to the constitution, the Dutch government is now forced to comply with the 2020 climate targets, including a rapid reduction in greenhouse gases.
What is the aim of your lawsuit?
Neubauer: We are primarily referring to the 2030 climate targets. If the lawsuit goes through, the government would be obliged to implement climate protection measures. In case of doubt, it would still be conceivable that the complaint would be rejected, but in a constructive way so that legal work can then continue and we can make new claims.
You see yourself as a climate protection activist. Fridays for Future sees itself as a movement for climate protection, not as a party. Critics complain that this is too easy. Why don't you as a movement go one step further and offer solutions instead of just making demands?
Neubauer:We see it as a division of labor. Fridays for Future is a children and youth movement, at best a student movement that has understood the situation and is now calling on political authorities to act. We refer these politicians to people who are familiar with the implementation: engineers, political scientists, sociologists, natural scientists, ecologists and so on. You are all addressed by us. But I don't see it as our task to solve the climate crisis in all its complexity on our own.
You are a member of the Greens, but not politically active.
Neubauer:I am politically active, but as an activist. I see myself as non-partisan. Just like the SPD, I also appeal to the Greens. In fact, of all parties, I probably criticize the Greens the most severely. I see that the climate crisis is a political crisis that cannot be resolved by any party - not even the Greens.
In your opinion, what role does the AfD play in German climate policy?
Neubauer:What the AfD does is not only despicable, it is also extremely difficult. In my opinion, she is a kind of demon in the political landscape who prevents action. Not only because it actively blocks parliaments and decision-making and slows down work, but also because the fear that decisions by other parties could unintentionally back the AfD is so great that it leads to something like political impotence.
"I don't see it as our task to solve the climate crisis in all its complexity on our own"
Are there any other brakes on federal politics?
Neubauer:The AfD has a special role because, from my point of view, it is clearly anti-democratic. And then in the political landscape in general, but especially around the right-wing conservatives, there is a kind of arrogance in terms of climate policy. People act as if they could clearly commit to the Paris Agreement, but still act in the opposite direction. And that's no better than directly denying climate change.
The demands made by Fridays for Future include, among other things, a CO2 tax. Doesn't that mean a social division because the rich can afford this tax, but poorer people cannot: One can buy their way out and pollute the air, the other not - is that fair?
Neubauer: That can be fair if compensation mechanisms are used effectively. With the CO2 price, one uses a market-based instrument that works within a certain market logic. Ultimately, one tries to steer capitalism in the right direction by moving something in terms of climate policy. What we are finding is that there is currently no other model that can be as effective - besides a very quick coal phase-out - as a CO2 price. That is why I am in favor of the instrument. It is obvious that we have to change the way we do business in the long term.
Apart from the CO2 tax: In your opinion, what is another important instrument that has to be implemented in German climate policy?
Neubauer:It's not about what I think myself, but what climate researchers have determined. On the one hand, there is a CO2 price in Germany that actually takes effect. At least 50 euros at the beginning and then there has to be a quick increase. But that also includes a quick exit from coal. We say: by 2030. In Germany, however, this rapid phase-out of coal, which we need, only works in harmony with the expansion of renewable energies. And that has practically come to a standstill. That has to change quickly.
Would a party that fully implements the need for action for a 1.5 degree target be the front runner in an election?
Neubauer:No. Absolute majorities are a thing of the past. I say that totally neutral. Just interpreting everything in terms of one party does not help at all. All parties must present election programs that make people feel that they are being taken seriously in their everyday lives and that also take the future into account. The concepts have to become significantly more intelligent than they are right now.
You are now 23 years old and live for climate protection. Where do you see yourself in 30 years?
Neubauer:Hopefully by then I will have survived my midlife crisis well and look back on a life where I feel like I was on the right side of history at the right time.
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