Young German activists demand earlier coal-burning deadline

Young German activists who have staged weekly "school strikes" to bring attention to climate change issued demands Monday that would require Germany's government to adopt measures far more ambitious than current plans for to curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

The six key actions listed by Fridays For Future, the group that organized the strikes by secondary school and university students, include moving forward the timeline for Germany to phase-out coal-fired power plants.

A government-appointed expert panel recently agreed that coal burning should end by 2038. The student group said it instead wants one-quarter of coal-fired power stations switched off this year and the rest by 2030.

The group also said Germany should generate all of its energy from renewable sources and cut net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2035; end billions of euros worth of annual fossil fuel subsidies; and introduce a carbon tax of 180 euros ($202.19) per metric ton.

"We'd prefer not to issue any demands and simply leave it to the adults," Fridays for Future representative Linus Steinmetz said. "But in the last months we've seen it's not enough to let adults get on with it."

Speaking to reporters while standing in front of dinosaur fossils at Berlin's Natural History Museum, group members said they chose the backdrop to illustrate the consequences of inaction on climate change.

Germany has been a vocal supporter of the 2015 Paris climate accord's most ambitious goal of capping global temperature rises at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 F) compared to pre-industrial times by the end of the century. Thousands of scientists have publicly backed the student protests, saying Germany can't reach the goal with current policies.

"We're simply demanding that the goals of the Paris Agreement and the 1.5-degree target are adhered to," Sana Strahinjic, another Fridays For Future member, said.

Germany has a special responsibility to act compared to poorer countries, Strahinjic added. The heavily industrialized country has been emitting large amounts of greenhouse gases for more than a century and its per capita emissions are still several times those of developing nations, she said.

The group's demands are unlikely to find favor with German businesses, which already are wary of the rising cost of energy . And politicians worry about provoking citizens given how public anger over fuel tax hikes led to protests in France that notched their 21st consecutive week Saturday.

Still, the student protests, inspired by Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg, have also caught the attention of leaders in Germany and elsewhere. Last month , hundreds of thousands around the world skipped school to call for climate action.

Andreas Kuebler, a spokesman for Germany's Environment Ministry, declined to comment directly on the protesters' demands, but said the government was focused on implementing the coal panel's recommendations.


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