The following section explores the defining moments that began the transformation of Greta Thunberg and Luisa Neubauer from regular citizens into climate leaders. It unravels the causes and consequences of Thunberg´s first ever strike in Sweden back in 2018, as well as explaining the reasons behind Neubauer´s first involvement in climate advocacy up until the previously mentioned year, when she organized – alongside Thunberg – the first international strike for the climate.
All leaders face many challenges throughout their journey, and in order to face these challenges, solutions must be proposed. Greta Thunberg and Luisa Neubauer are climate activists. Therefore, they are not actively engaged in the policymaking process, nor do they have the capacity to exert serious influence on the crafting of global warming legislation. However, their methods of climate activism have increased public pressure on politicians, which has, in some cases, translated into the modification of certain regulations regarding environmental policies. This section will attempt to explain the proposal both of them have started with the objective of defending the planet and raising the awareness of the public regarding the climate issue.
Greta Thunberg’s Solutions
As previously stated, Greta Thunberg does not have a specific environmental focus area. Her activism encompasses all aspects of efforts to combat manmade global warming, and therefore it can be argued that her overall objective is to help mitigate the effects of global warming. Nonetheless, even though she has not proposed any particular policy to mitigate the effects of global warming at the legislative level, her activism led her to launch several projects to increase the awareness of the general public on the climate issue.
After the first international strike for the climate, organized by the FFF movement back in 2019, the book “No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference” was published. It consists of a compilation of Thunberg´s most popular speeches regarding global warming and the climate crisis, which range from her first public speech “Our Lives Are in Your Hands” that was delivered in the streets of Stockholm a few weeks before she started her first protest, to her addresses to the United Nations General Assembly (“The World Is Waking Up”) and the World Economic Forum in Davos (“Our House Is on Fire”).
Thunberg recently announced the launch of a new book titled “The Climate Book”, created by her and in partnership with over a hundred experts from all fields, ranging from oceanographers to economists. The book’s purpose is to explain the full scale of the climate issue to an audience that does not possess significant familiarity with environmental challenges and to offer a set of potential solutions that can help decrease the impact of global warming on the planet. In the book, Thunberg also offers her take on the issue of “greenwashing” and how she believes it is affecting society. However, she avoids developing the details of what actions she believes should be taken regarding the climate issue and how to alleviate its impact on the environment, expressing that “it has nothing to do with me [Thunberg].” This statement is in accordance with the posture she has expressed in previous speeches, in which she implies that the adults in position of shaping legislation regarding the environment are the ones who should be suggesting new policies to tackle the climate issue.
She also undertook initiatives in the film industry, alongside her father Svante Thunberg, who was already involved in the sector as an actor and producer. Her first audiovisual project was a documentary film released in 2020 under the name “I Am Greta”, which follows Thunberg on her “international crusade to get people to listen to scientists about the world’s environmental problems”. Months later, a documentary series offering an in-depth look into Thunberg´s most recent campaigns and travels pursuing her activism was released. “Greta Thunberg: A Year to Change the World” consists of three episodes during which Thunberg attends talks in order to hear experts’ input about the complex and diverse effects of global warming and explores different methods to combat global warming. In addition, the series shows Thunberg speaking at summits and protesting on the streets.
At an individual level, Thunberg has herself become a solution to the challenges that she faced as a young climate activist and which have been presented in the Stake section.
Her medical condition was used to taunt her and diminish her image on media outlets and social media platforms, but she decided to embrace this part of her identity and transform it into a driving force to inspire other people to become activists for the climate. She has called her diagnosis, in particular her Asperger syndrome, a “superpower” that has allowed her to go further as an activist by inspiring other young people with the affirmation that being different is good.
Another attempt to denigrate her as a symbol of climate advocacy was centered around critique of her youth. Since she was only fifteen years old when she became a popular figure in environmental activism, critics have argued that “children” have no knowledge of the complexity of drafting legislation and therefore the demands of Thunberg and her peers should not be taken into account in high-level decision making. However, she took advantage of these remarks to highlight the importance of the involvement of young people in the climate debate, since the upcoming generations will be the ones having to live with the consequences of the current climate inaction of political leaders. She has also consistently emphasized the high potential for what could be achieved if more people decided to work together to solve the climate crisis, such as when she said “But I think that if a few children can get headlines all over the world just by not going to school for a few weeks, imagine what we could all do together if we wanted to”. The same idea as the one presented in her book “No One Is Too Small To Make a Difference”, in which she explained her perception regarding the existing difference between the different generations regarding the climate issue, and the importance it receives from the public.
Luisa Neubauer’s Solutions
As of today, Luisa Neubauer has been involved in climate advocacy for 6 years. In that period of time, she has developed several initiatives and projects to increase the existing pressure on politicians with the aim of influencing national and international legislation regarding climate policies and increasing public knowledge regarding global warming and its potential impact on the future generations.
As mentioned in the previous section, Neubauer has become a central figure in the struggle for decarbonisation of the economy and a progressive transition towards greener and more sustainable sources of energy. She has focused on these issues at the national and European levels, as demonstrated through her calls for greater environmental accountability within German institutions as well as within bodies of the European Union.
Neubauer is the face of the German branch of the Fridays For Future movement. In this role, she has criticized the government’s lack of political will to enact tougher measures regarding environmental policies and the enabling of German business in deals favoring the use of fossil fuel energy instead of greener energy sources.
Neubauer, alongside fellow climate activists, has sued the German government because of its inaction and lack of ambition to take “serious measures” to combat manmade global warming. The lawsuit – which was the first environmental lawsuit against the federal government – was filed in front of Germany’s Federal Climate Protection Act. In it, it was argued that “the [German] law´s target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 55% by 2030 from 1990 levels was insufficient and consequently violated their human rights as protected by Germany’s constitution”.
The victory of the plaintiffs was considered as a turning point in climate activism, since it set a precedent for future climate litigations against national governments, and even international bodies, because of their failure to fulfill the objectives established at climate conferences.
That same year, she protested against the opening of a coal mine in Australia that was partly financed by the German energy company Siemens. The public strikes that followed the announcement led the CEO of the German branch of the company to offer her a position as a consultant on Siemens’ environmental board. Neubauer declined the offer with the justification that she desired to remain “independent” as a climate activist and acceptance of the position would potentially foster conflicts of interest.
Another institution that has found itself the target of criticism from Neubauer has been the German bank Deutsche Bank, due to its involvement in the financing process of a pipeline in Africa. The East African Crude Pipeline, commonly referred to as EACOP, is a 1.443 km potential crude oil export pipeline that will be in charge of transporting Uganda´s crude oil from Uganda to Tanzania. The criticism made by Neuabeuer and other fellow activists has been the fact that the EACOP project will force the displacement of thousands of the inhabitants of the regions through which the pipeline will pass by, as well as creating key risks for the wildlife and the environment of the region. As a response, the campaign against the construction of the pipeline #StopEACOP was born.
The last protesting campaign she has been involved in has been against the taxonomy bill passed by one of the main institutions of the European Union. The taxonomy bill crafted by the European Commission attempted to respond to the obstacles of the current war in Ukraine, which has heightened the threat of gas and electricity shortages to European states. The bill called for modifications to the current taxonomy regarding nuclear and gas energy, specifying that these types of energy can be classified as “green sources of energy” in accordance with EU regulations. In response, NGOs from all across the continent, alongside climate activists such as Neubauer, organized protests with the aim of reducing the likelihood of the bill’s passing and accused the European Union of an “unbelievable act of greenwashing” sources of energies that are hurtful to the environment and “undermining all previous efforts to tackle the climate crisis”.
Beyond her participation and leadership in climate activism in the political sphere, Neubauer has also created several initiatives that aim to increase the knowledge of the general public surrounding the climate issue and the negative consequences global warming can exert on the planet’s population.
Since the start of her involvement in the FFF movement, she has participated in multiple summits and conferences related to the issues of global warming and global warming. She has been a guest speaker as a climate activist at international summits such as the UNCCFF as well as at several national ones in Germany. The last speech she offered was at an event called re:publica 22 that took place in Berlin. Under the speech title “Let´s not fuck this up” Neubauer explained, during half an hour, the recent climate phenomenon and criticized the lack of action taken by high-end organizations to tackle global warming in a more appropriate manner to fulfill the objectives set at the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. Alongside official political conferences, she has also granted interviews to domestic and international news outlets.
As part of a personal initiative, Neubauer is the co-author of two books (hasta la fecha) regarding the climate debate. “Von Ende der Klimakrise: Eine Geschichte unserer Zukunft” was published in October of 2019, only a couple of months after the first international FFF strike took place. Her second book “Noch haben wir die Wahl: Ein Gespräch über Freiheit, Ökologie und den Konflikt der Generationen” is a collaboration between Neubauer and German journalist Bern Ulrich, in which they explore the turning points that took place in Germany´s story during the year 2021, and how they have influenced the climate debate. Furthermore, she is the host of an original podcast under the name of “1,5 Grad”, which explores, in collaboration with the streaming platform Spotify, the questions about “the greatest challenge of our time: the global climate crisis”.
Neubauer first became involved in climate advocacy in 2015. While she was a legal adult at the start of her climate activism, her relative youth compared to the age of people she directed her critics at – mostly older, senior politicians – was still weaponized against her to diminish the importance of her demands. As in the case of Thunberg, she has been belittled by more senior officials and people from the media. Furthermore, the launch of her previously mentioned initiatives has led to her becoming a frequent target of criticism. She has been labeled as a “radical” because of her take on how she conducted her activism. The latest controversy arose in June 2022, when Neubauer posted a video on Instagram with several other climate activists during a protest, in which they proclaimed they were “planning how to blow up a pipeline”, in reference to their desired obstruction of the EACOP pipeline construction plans. Nonetheless, she decided to embrace the “radical” label as an indicator of her impact and success as an environmental activist. She stated proudly that “activism cannot be conducted as it always has been.”
Thunberg and Neubauer share the same characteristics, at the personal and professional activism levels, and therefore the similarities between their journeys are easy to discern. They faced the similar challenges, both as individual activists as well as members of the FFF movement, and have advocated for coinciding solutions to those problems.
In an attempt to increase the impact of climate activists, both at an individual and community level, in the policymaking process, they have shared their activism and campaigns on social media platforms, in particular on Instagram and Twitter, where they can reach other young people who share their concerns regarding the climate issue. Through their accounts, Thunberg and Neubauer have shared the effects of global warming in the form of climate catastrophes, alongside scientific evidence that explains the drivers and the consequences of global warming, in an effort to increase the attention given to the science behind global warming, and how it can offer solutions to deal with its potential aftermath. The broadcast of present day extreme climate catastrophes, like floods, hurricanes and fires, have also become contemporary examples of the importance that climate legislation carries, arguing that it should be considered a priority at the decision making level.
Another challenge both Thunberg and Neubauer have faced has been the ramifications of the Covid-19 pandemic. The imposition of lockdowns, social distancing restrictions and travel bans made it impossible for environmental activists to advocate for their demands via their traditional methods. A change was required, and thus, street campaigns and public speeches were adjusted as online strikes and conferences, in order for the community to continue their activism in spite of the condition of the global pandemic. The challenging circumstances were ultimately seized by the activists as an opportunity to increase global diversity in the climate debate. Activists from African and Asian countries were invited to speak at the online summits, which has allowed for a greater international platform for the non-Western approach within climate activism. The broader-scope experiences and testimonies offered a perspective that the effects of global warming are not merely hypothetical and demonstrated the necessity in building a climate activism movement that extends beyond the concerns of developing countries and recognizes global warming’s threat to the entire planet.
In “Solutions”, Thunberg and Neubauer´s proposals to engage in the climate debate are studied. From their first initiatives as climate activists to the public discourses at international conferences, it is attempted to present to the reader all the projects each of them has undertaken during their journey as climate activists, both at the individual and community level.