German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Saturday she welcomed the weekly school protests for greater efforts to stem man-made climate change.
“I support very much that students are taking to the streets to fight for climate protection,” she said in her weekly podcast, adding that ambitious climate goals could “only be reached with the support of society.”
Over the past months, students have taken to the streets to demand greater climate efforts across the world, following the example of 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg who started weekly strikes last summer.
The protests have provoked varying reactions from politicians, with some in Europe expressing support while others criticize the students for skipping school.
Merkel, a few weeks ago, came under fire for remarks suggesting the demonstrations could be influenced by outside interests, which quickly triggered clarifications from her spokesperson.
No government has so far signaled it will make its climate goals more ambitious as a result, but the marches have helped push the issue higher on governments’ agendas, building pressure on policymakers to respond to the students’ demands.
Merkel said she knew “that the school children want some things to happen faster, like the coal exit,” but cautioned that it was “important to reconcile jobs, competitiveness and climate goals.”
The planned 2038 coal deadline “might be far off from the students’ perspective, but it’s going to be challenging — and I am asking you to understand that, too,” she said.
Merkel’s comments come just as the ruling coalition is fighting over how to design the country’s climate legislation until 2030 and beyond, something that’s putting pressure on the chancellor to position herself on the way forward.
“There are challenges which you can only manage together, and climate protection is one of them,” she said.