‘None of the Three Traffic Light Coalition Parties is Close to the Paris Agreement’

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At the climate conference in Glasgow, activists from various groups protested again – Leonie Bremer from ‘Fridays for Future’ was there too. How can climate protection and development cooperation work hand in hand?

FFF-activists at a MAPA ('Most Affected People and Areas')-protest. © FFF

Jan Rübel

Jan Rübel is author at Zeitenspiegel Reportagen, a columnist at Yahoo and writes for national newspapers and magazines. He studied History and Middle Eastern Studies.

Leonie Bremer

Leonie Bremer is a 24 y/o activist fighting against injustice with fridays for future. Since a year, she is leading campings with FFF MAPA (most affected people and areas) against the Global North demanding them to stop funding the destruction in the Global South. Bremer has been press spokesperson of FFF Germany since 2019, she has organized the first continuous strike week in Germany and appeared in various talkshows. Before FFF, she was part of the occupation of Hambacher Forest in Northrhine-Westphalia. Besides her activism, Bremer writes her master thesis in the technology of renewable energies.

Ms Bremer, has development cooperation missed the mark on climate protection so far?

Everyone goes to the Climate Change Conference (COP) because the planet is so important to us – at least that’s what the politicians say. But at the same time, we live in a system in which the Northern hemisphere completely exploits the Southern hemisphere. So what does that have to do with development policy? Does it mean we have to exploit other countries so that we can maintain our lifestyle? They simply say that a climate protection mechanism would be to plant trees in other countries – which really just means taking away people’s land that they have available to build houses and grow food. Therefore, we didn’t just miss the mark in the past. We are still doing it today: preventing real social development in the Southern hemisphere.

 

What do you think needs to change specifically?

We must stop fossil emissions now. Countries must agree on a year when they will put an end to fossil energies – and they will have to distinguish between countries that historically have very many or very few emissions. It’s definitely time to stick to the equity aspect of the Paris Convention. We need to start prioritising the countries that are most affected by the climate crisis, and we should start listening to them. The Global North has to stop covering up lies and should instead really start protecting the climate.

 

We have now had 25 conferences where absolutely nothing has happened.

 

What needs to change in development cooperation?

Well, what actually is development cooperation ...

 

... there are ministries, agencies and organisations in many countries that invest a lot of money in it.

But what does development policy actually mean today? For us at Fridays for Future (FFF), it does not mean that Germany determines what other countries need. The people should decide locally: What is needed? Where should the money go? The people in the global North certainly don’t know any better what is needed in Southern regions. That has to change fundamentally.  

 

Are FFF’s demands different from those of other environmentalists?

FFF is a movement; therefore, we have different demands than, for example, a non-governmental organisation (NGO). Our purpose is to communicate science, to communicate justice. But ultimately, we all stand behind the Paris Climate Declaration.
 

You mentioned the Global North. What are the biggest obstacles to effective action against climate change here in Germany?

Nothing that politicians in Germany do when they talk about climate protection is in line with the Paris Agreement. You have to think about that for a minute! The politicians and people in positions of power make us citizens believe that they are taking responsibility – but in all actuality our emissions level keeps rising. This misconception that everything will be fine is the fundamental problem. The fire is right on our doorstep, and the politicians go back inside and enjoy their coffee.

 

Do you think the new federal government will do things differently now?

(She laughs). It would be nice, but none of the three traffic light coalition parties is close to the Paris Agreement. Despite all the compromises I see on the horizon, the science is clear: We are nowhere near where we need to be, and that’s not going to change.

 

Poverty alleviation, climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation – do you consider that a trilemma, where all three problems need to be tackled equally, as it were, or do you prioritise one over the other?

I don’t know why I should prioritise one of these issues.

 

The climate crisis encompasses all crises.

 

If we don’t manage to keep global warming in check, extreme weather crises will dramatically impact our business and our lives. There will be less crop yields, landscapes will be flooded, and biodiversity will be massively disrupted, because many plant and animal species will no longer be able to survive in their traditional habitats. The climate crisis exacerbates poverty and hunger and leads to less biodiversity.

 

What can be done to address this trilemma together? How can we strengthen climate protection, reduce poverty through cultivation and fight the loss of biodiversity?

We all have to do our part. At the climate conferences, people are running around in suits and decide on absolutely nothing – all reckless politicians who are just going to the next dinner. We need people power now. We need to go there and make a stand so that politicians are forced to act responsibly. What we don’t need are people who are in politics for egotistical reasons and accomplish nothing else.

 

Should we give up cultivation of arable land in order to build up CO2 storage facilities?

We need crop yields and decentralised systems, not huge areas of arable land that destroy smallholder farming. We need food, and therefore we need arable land. What we don’t need are the hundred companies that are responsible for 71 per cent of global emissions.

 

Studienteilnehmende großer sowie von Frauen geführter Haushalte leiden stärker unter Ernährungsunsicherheit. (c) Friederike Krämer/GIZ
FFF-activists at a 'All for 1,5'-protest. The movement demands a budget clearly dedicated to the 1,5-degree goal from the coming governing coalition within its first 100 days in office. © FFF/Dominik Butzmann

Agriculture has two sides. On the one hand, it produces necessary food; on the other hand, it produces emissions and reduces biodiversity. How to deal with this issue?

Farmers do not choose to exploit their animals and destroy their land with pesticides because the system is supposedly so good. They are forced to do it because the political framework conditions are incredibly bad. There needs to be better working conditions, much better conditions for smaller farms, and we need to stop throwing away so much food. We have enough hunger in the world.

 

Should something change in German agriculture?

Besides strengthening small farms, we should figure out how to farm without pesticides and how to implement field monitoring. Farmers should also prepare themselves more for the fact that the climate crisis will have an increasing impact – and that some crops can no longer be grown.

 

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