Two Climate Activists on Hunger Strike Will Now Refuse Liquids Until Politician Meets Them

Thousands of young environmental activists rallied Friday outside of Germany's parliament ahead of a national election that will determine the country's plans to address climate change for decades, the Associated Press said.

Among those protesting strong action against climate change are two activists who are on a hunger strike until politicians agree to make public comments on climate policy. Henning Jeschke, 21, has been fasting since August 30. He is now joined by Lea Bonasera. The pair vowed to escalate their strike and begin refusing liquids, the AP reported.

The hunger strikers are demanding that Olaf Scholz of the Social Democrats, a front-runner for the country's next chancellor, publicly acknowledge that Germany is facing a climate emergency.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Climate Protest Berlin
Two activists vow to escalate their hunger strike and refuse liquids until German politicians acknowledge their plan to fight climate change. Above, activists including Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and German climate activist Luisa Neubauer hold a banner as they march on Friday at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate during a Fridays for Future global climate strike in Berlin. TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP via Getty Images

A German government official said pressure from young climate activists already had resulted in concrete policies in recent years, from higher carbon prices to billions of euros being invested in greener technologies.

"We also have a new mood across society, where politicians don't have to explain why they're doing something to protect the climate anymore. They have to explain why they're not protecting the climate," German Environment Ministry spokesman Nikolai Fichtner said.

The protest outside the Reichstag in Berlin was part of a string of rallies around the world, from Japan and Italy to Indian and Britain—amid dire warnings the planet faces dangerous temperature rises unless greenhouse gas emissions are cut sharply in the coming years. Across Germany, tens of thousands of marchers joined similar protests in several cities and towns.

Friday's rally was a multi-generational event, drawing school-age participants as well as adults. Rene Bohrenfeldt, an IT expert taking part in the Berlin rally, said he hoped older Germans would consider the issue when casting their votes on Sunday.

"The majority of voters are older than 50 and determine the outcome of the election," Bohrenfeldt, 36, said. "I appeal to all grandmothers to make the right decision for the climate and for their grandchildren."

Civics teacher Anne Kokott, cradling her infant son, Enzo, said she hoped Friday's large turnout would signal the urgency of dealing with the climate crisis and perhaps have an impact on undecided or older voters.

"Today is important because of the election," Kokott, 36, said.

Christiane Koetter-Lietz, who attended with her children and grandchildren, said she would be voting for Germany's Green party, which has campaigned for tougher measures to cut the country's greenhouse gas emissions.

"We have water catastrophes, fire catastrophes, the world is burning. This is the very last warning," said the 69-year-old from the western town of Unna.

The idea for a global "climate strike" was inspired by teenage Swedish activist Greta Thunberg's solo protest in Stockholm three years ago. It snowballed into a mass movement until the coronavirus pandemic put a stop to large gatherings. Activists have only recently started staging smaller gatherings.

Thunberg, 18, addressed the Berlin rally from a stage, telling the crowd that voting is important but must be coupled with protests that put politicians under constant pressure.

"We can still turn this around," she said to cheers. "We demand change, and we are the change."

Thunberg and prominent German climate activist Luisa Neubauer accused politicians of falling short, saying the programs of the main parties weren't far-reaching enough to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit), the more ambitious limit in the 2015 Paris climate accord.

Also Friday, hundreds of students and environmental activists demonstrated in Prague while the rally in Berlin was taking place.

They shouted "Now or never," and displayed banners with slogans and statements such as "Climate justice," and "We want a healthy planet for our children."

Small groups of young climate protesters held demonstrations in multiple Indian cities on Friday, calling on politicians and big businesses to ramp up their ambitions for reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and to commit to a raft of climate pledges.

"Just because there is a pandemic doesn't mean you stop working around the climate crisis," said Srijani Datta, a youth climate activist in New Delhi.

Global warming also has been a top election issue in Iceland, where voters head to the polls for a general election on Saturday. All parties running for seats in the North Atlantic island nation's parliament acknowledge global warming as a force of change in a sub-Arctic landscape but disagree on how to respond to it.

While many of the protests worldwide were family affairs, activists in Britain blocked the country's busiest ferry port Friday to highlight the climate crisis and fuel poverty in the U.K.

Hunger Strike Germany
Activists gather for a Fridays for Future global climate strike in front of the parliament building in Berlin on Friday. /Michael Sohn/AP Photo