Neubauer’s Mild Climate Leadership after a Summer of Climate Disasters and a Return of Fossil Fuels

  • Luisa Neubauer is a German climate activist, known as the country’s face of the Fridays For Future movement.
  • Her advocacy has led her to become a climate leader at the domestic and European levels.
  • Following the entrance of the Green Party into the German government and the return of climate strikes, she has resurfaced after a year of climate catastrophes.

Why is Neubauer’s climate leadership mild?

Answer: After the Covid-19 pandemic, Neubauer has retaken her role as one of the main co-organisers of the Friday For Future movement in Germany.

In September of this year, thousands of people march in cities around the world to protest climate change and demand climate action. It is the first international strike for the climate organized by the youth-led movement for the climate Fridays For Future (FFF) since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic over two years ago. Sparked after the sit-down led by climate Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg in 2018, the growing impression that the current climate crisis could no longer be sustained led the way to the creation of the movement. Prior to the outbreak of the virus, FFF had become popular due to the massive mobilization capacity of its activists, Neubauer is of this capacity. 

The time that passed between Neubauer’s first protest and the beginning of the international health crisis was a prolific period of climate activism. The international political scene at the time, with growing economies and successive climate anomalies, caused climate activists to be noticed by politicians. Neubauer became a leader on climate justice and decarbonisation in Germany and Europe.

Her role as the face of the German branch of FFF made her and her demands widely popular. However, the Covid-19 pandemic and its consequences in large part drowned the activism momentum. Online strikes and virtual lectures did not produce the same effect on the general public as the ones that took place on the street. 

Nevertheless, that period of general quiet regarding the climate debate ended this year. Months of multiple natural disasters, which have been linked to the effects of global warming, have propelled Neubauer and her fellow activists to reclaim their position as the front runners of environmental advocacy.

What is changing Neubauer´s temperature?

Answer: A year of continuous extreme weather effects, which have triggered the return of the climate protests on the global scale.

The German federal elections took place on the 26th of September 2021 and resulted in a drastic change in the political landscape of the country. After Angela Merkel decided not to run for reelection, the socialist Social Democratic Party of Germany(SPD), the liberal Free Democratic Party (FPD) and the Greens formed a traffic light coalition. The rising popularity of the Green party – which became the third most voted formation – was greeted as an opportunity for change by climate activists in the country. However, the Russian invasion of Ukraine two months later paused the Greens’ environmental proposals. 

Following the formation of a new and more climate-aware government, Russia´s invasion of Ukraine put potential green proposals on stand-by. Russia’s decision to withhold gas supplies to Europe has been a major step back for climate activism. Germany is one of the countries most affected by this since the closure of the Nordstream 1 pipeline – which transports gas from Russia directly to Germany – has supposed a major cut from the amount of gas imported into the country.

This supply accounted for over half of the gas consumed by Germany. As an alternative, the current German cabinet reactivated a coal-fired power plant to save gas. It is a setback from Germany’s coal phase-out and inspired Neubauer to speak out against this decision. 

Following the period of stillness propelled by the pandemic, Neubauer began striking again on the streets of Germany during the campaigning period. Even as a member of the Alliance 90/The Greens, Neubauer has always preferred to maintain a certain distance from politics, so as to remain independent. She has criticized the party’s lack of ambitious policies to tackle global warming and decarbonisation. In an interview, Neubauer accused Germany’s parties of “collective failure”. Two days prior to the federal election, a global FFF strike took place.

Additionally, a summer of major climate hazards, ranging from huge fires in several regions in Europe to torrential floods in Asia, has impulsed climate activists from FFF to mobilize once again to highlight the need for new environmental regulations. 

What is driving Neubauer?

Answer: Her position against the use of fossil fuels, which increased following the recent resurgence of coal mines in Germany due to the war on Ukraine.

Neubauer got involved in climate advocacy at a very early stage in her life when she was still a teenager. After the Paris Agreement in 2015, she got involved with environmental NGOs and social causes. But it was not until her first encounter with Greta Thunberg during a climate summit in December of 2018 that she engaged in active climate activism. 

Influenced by her grandmother’s anti-nuclear activism, Neubauer started advocating for a transition from fossil-fuel-based economies to green renewable energy sources. She seeks to pressure politicians and policymakers to implement more ambitious climate legislation. She filed a lawsuit to demand more action be taken by the German government to protect the environment and has also signed open letters backing climate policy.

Within Germany, she has spoken up about the government’s decision to reopen a deactivated coal power plant as a substitute for Russian gas. At the European level, she has protested against the new European Commission’s taxonomy legislation, which classified gas and nuclear energies as green. Neubauer accused the legislation of greenwashing and considered that it weakened the EU’s climate policy. 

These recent changes in the political landscape at the domestic and the European level, alongside a soaring number of climate disasters worldwide, have prompted the return of street strikes and public speeches organized by the FFF. Neubauer marched down the streets of Berlin alongside fellow activists to demand more action to be taken in the fight against climate change. 

What does this mean for you?

Answer: The return of her activism can increase the pressure being exerted on political leaders regarding environmental legislation.

After having witnessed the extreme climate events, which have been considered a direct consequence of the effect of global warming by the scientific community, the need to modify environmental legislation became evident. The return of Neubauer´s active role in the fight against global warming and in the protection of the environment may revive the effect FFF exerted on the population prior to the pandemic.

Additionally, the consequences of the current energy crisis support Neubauer’s motivation to continue protesting. In the wake of a retreat from the coal phase-out in Germany because of the energy restrictions imposed by Russia, the emergence of Neubauer as a voice for the planet in the country – and the continent – has risen as a necessary reminder of the planet’s situation.