“Fridays for future” in parliament: getting a kicking

At a hearing of Friday for Future speakers in the Environment Committee, – almost – all parties want to show themselves in the most climate-friendly light.

Clara Mayer last summer on the FFF stage in Invalidenpark Photo: imago images / Muller-Stauffenberg

It has become rather quiet around the activists of Fridays for Future in the media. This is only partly their own fault, even if the decision to no longer demonstrate every Friday in the Invalidenpark may have contributed to this. It’s also the familiar media dynamic that runs every topic through all the stops once, and then pounces on the next one.

Of course, this does not apply to bodies such as the environmental committee of the House of Representatives. The hearing of representatives of the climate protection movement, which took place on Thursday, should have taken place a long time ago – only the popular initiative "Klimanotstand" (climate emergency) intervened, which had forced the date of the hearing by collecting signatures.

Formally, the two FFF spokespersons Clara Mayer and Quang Paasch were the interviewees, but as it often happens in parliament, in the end it was mainly the respective faction members who spoke. Except for the AfD, whose representatives verbally attacked Clara Mayer in particular, the coalition and opposition tried to make themselves appear in the most climate-friendly light.

Danny Freymark (CDU) complained that the red-red-green coalition had announced a lot, but unlike the federal government had not even passed a climate package – which infuriated his SPD colleague Daniel Buchholz: Only the coalition cares about climate protection, the opposition rejects everything sight unseen. In addition, the Berlin Energy and Climate Protection Program 2030 has long been a package of measures that is backed by 100 million euros over a period of four years.

Georg Kossler (Greens) admitted, however, that the money was not flowing fast enough – offering subsidies was not enough. The issue must be approached from a regulatory perspective, and why not by banning SUVs or oil-fired heating systems? That would have to be examined. He told the FFF representatives that they should continue to "kick the parliamentarians in the butt where necessary.

"Change framing"

Asked about the future of the movement, Paasch said: "We will continue to take to the streets," and the next global climate strike is planned for April 24. Apart from that, however, the movement is adapting its strategy, the spokesman said: "We have to change our framing and target the institutions. More concrete was the announcement of a Berlin climate conference, which students wanted to organize together with "science" in the near future.

Both speakers emphasized that climate protection was "not a topic of the Greens or the Left" but concerned all parties – they explicitly excluded the AfD from this. Asked by several members of parliament what they specifically expected from politics, Mayer said that the movement had set up a "demands working group", but that the decisions would be made on a grassroots basis and would therefore not be the quickest. "We will probably be ready in the coming weeks," Mayer said.

At the end, there was also praise from the State Secretary for the Environment, Stefan Tidow: for the Senate, climate protection had been a very important topic "from the very beginning", "nevertheless, something has changed through Fridays for Future". In December, the Senate recognized the climate emergency, but the young movement will continue to put pressure on politics: "I would like to thank you very much for that," said Tidow.

One thing then stood out: In the public committee meeting "the Fridays" had been able to mobilize not even a dozen members. Several chairs in the audience area remained empty.