Recently it seemed as if the climate protection movement “Fridays for Future” (FFF) lost strength: First there was the Corona epidemic, which made meetings more difficult, and now, for more than two months, there has been war in Europe. The issue of energy security and sanctions is currently in the foreground and not climate change. Is there still room for environmental protection? For Luisa Neubauer, the best-known activist of the protest movement in Germany, the question is justified. “Of course we’ve been thinking since February: What should the role of the FFF movement be in the war?” she says in an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung.
But they quickly found the answer, not least because the activists saw “exactly the lobby distraction patterns” in the discussion about an embargo on Russian energy sources, “that we know from the climate protection debate,” said the 26-year-old, who just recently completed a master’s degree in geography in Göttingen. “Instead of listening to the scientific analyzes and studies, you follow the opinions and gut feelings of a few in the industry.”
Of course, an embargo entails economic burdens that “shouldn’t be downplayed at all,” says Neubauer, who calls for a quick stop to oil and gas imports and at the same time the rapid expansion of renewable energies to compensate for the loss. Some of the consequences outlined by business, on the other hand, have “less and less to do with reality”. Economics Minister Habeck visited the refinery in Schwedt this Monday, which processes exclusively Russian oil from the “Druschba” (Friendship) pipeline. Not only are 1,200 jobs at stake there, but also, in the opinion of the Left, SPD, CDU and even the Green Federal Ministry of Economics, the secure supply of fuel in East Germany.
Also Martin Brudermüller, the head of the chemical company BASF, recently warned at the Annual General Meeting against an immediate halt to natural gas supplies from Russia: This would “result in irreversible damage to the economy” because Russian gas covers around half of Germany’s needs. In extreme cases, BASF would have to stop production at the main plant in Ludwigshafen. “We shouldn’t take the risk of dramatic consequences for our job market,” says the German Social Association. Together with the rising prices due to inflation, a mixed situation is created in which it is no longer just a matter of loss of prosperity, but simply of securing one’s livelihood. And so it should be mainstream what Mercedes CEO Ola Källenius said a few days ago: “On the one hand we are trying to support Ukraine, on the other hand Germany must remain capable of acting.“For this, energy from the East is also currently needed. Independence must be achieved as quickly as possible, but the energy supplies must not be stopped until then.
Neubauer holds as do Ukrainian economists, by the way or the German one Economics Veronika Grimm, against it. Various studies have shown that the economic costs of an embargo correspond to those of the corona pandemic. Very uncomfortable – but manageable, so the conclusion of the 26-year-old. However, large corporations such as BASF tried to dissuade politicians from taking tough measures “with exaggerated horror scenarios”. It is a “spineless attempt” to secure one’s own profits – and so far the business leaders “get away with it,” criticizes the climate activist.
In fact, this would irreversibly damage Germany’s promise to defend human rights, says Neubauer: “An embargo has a price, but no embargo has a price.” The real catastrophe is not economic, but takes place 1,000 kilometers to the east: “People are dying from Russian weapons that are paid for with our fossil imports.” The argument that it’s too late now anyway, because the tanks are already leading and the rockets are already flying, doesn’t hold up, says the FFF activist. On the one hand, the lack of payments made it more difficult to continue the aggression. Since the beginning of the war, Germany has probably transferred more than nine billion euros to Russia for oil and gas. On the other hand, the government will also build weapons there tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. “In the end, people will ask us: Where were we when it was important to examine the values of our sacred prosperity?” says Neubauer.
But don’t rising gas station prices, secure jobs and social peace also weigh heavily on Germans? The Germans underestimated the people throughout the war, replies Neubauer. First the strength of the Ukrainians and now their own population. Through donations or specific assistance, many have shown that they are willing to share some of the burden. Again, the comparison with the founding theme of Fridays for Future is appropriate, the activist believes: “In the climate debate we have learned that it pays to listen to science and that major decisions for the common good are not solely dependent on the sensitivities of industry bosses do.” Don’t forget that. And instead I have to fight for a quick embargo – and a radical expansion of energy systems towards renewables. Incidentally, Neubauer rejects replacing Russian gas with liquid gas (LNG): It is “completely counterproductive” to invest again in fossil fuels: for climate protection reasons, but also because the extraction and use of fossil raw materials always violate human rights.