Thousands of climate protesters marched past the Frankfurt auto show on Saturday, highlighting the simmering tensions between the German car industry and the country’s environmentalists as the country's government prepares to take action to curb runaway carbon dioxide emissions.
"Make love not CO2," read one banner as activists from Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth joined scores of cyclists to demand that Germany take action to cut the number of cars on its roads, with some calling for an outright ban on SUVs and other large vehicles.
Police in Frankfurt said some 15,000, including many cyclists, took part in the march. Organizers put the number at 25,000 and said that about 18,000 cyclists took part.
"The automotive industry makes money by destroying the environment," Marion Tiemann, a transport expert at Greenpeace and one of the event’s organizers, said at the protest. "We are in the midst of a climate crisis."
Germany has pledged to cut carbon emissions by 55 percent by 2030, compared with 1990 levels. But by the end of this year, the country will have reduced CO2 output by only 30 percent, with transport emissions rising steadily.
Record-breaking heatwaves, the dwindling of the Rhine river and a series of powerful storms have turbocharged the climate debate in Germany and lifted the environmentalist Green party to second place in election polls.
The protest came as German Chancellor Angela Merkel convenes a climate cabinet tasked with cutting emissions from Germany’s transport and heating sectors. "In the last 50 years, storms, hot spells and floods have increased threefold in Germany," Merkel said in her weekly podcast Saturday. "We must act."
Merkel faces a balancing act when she chairs the first meeting of her high-level climate cabinet on Sept. 20. The chancellor is trying to thrash out a common position between squabbling ministers from her coalition’s conservative and social democrat parties.
The outcome of the negotiations could have profound consequences for the country’s economy as signs of a looming recession mount."Of course -- and we can’t beat about the bush -- climate protection comes at a price," Merkel said. "But I'm convinced if we don’t put this money in the right place, the price that we will pay later will be much higher."