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Reporting on climate change is one of the major journalistic challenges of our time. The climate crisis is also one of the most important issues of humanity for SPIEGEL. For this reason, we support an international initiative that seeks to take a look this week: "Covering Climate Now" was initiated by the Columbia Journalism Review and the Canadian newspaper "The Nation", with more than 200 media companies around the world, including the Guardian, El País, La Repubblica, The Times of India, Bloomberg or Vanity Fair. SPIEGEL is dedicating the cover story of the current issue to the climate crisis this week and every day pays special attention to mirror.de
Thousands of people gathered in Frankfurt am Main for a mass demonstration against the IAA Motor Show. They called for a fundamental turnaround in transport policy for better climate protection. The organizers estimated the number at 25,000. The police started from around 15,000 participants.
The coalition #aussteigen had called for the protests, to which climate change and environmental groups have joined forces. They accuse the auto industry of not resolutely pursuing the shift towards emission-free electromobility and, among other things, continuing to rely on climate-damaging city SUVs. The protests are also aimed at politics.
The protesters marched peacefully from several directions to the IAA compound, police said. For a short while, sections of the A648 and A661 motorways had to be closed to participants in a bicycle rally. "Today, tens of thousands of people have recaptured the city from the auto industry on foot and by bicycle," the organizers said. "The time for swanky gas guzzlers and ever larger SUVs is over."
With the change in traffic, the emission of climate-damaging carbon dioxide (CO2) should be reduced and global warming slowed down. The demonstrators made specific demands. They pounded
- on an immediate end of internal combustion engines
- a departure from gas-guzzling SUVs
- a switch to small frugal electric cars
- the conversion of the car-friendly to the bicycle and pedestrian-friendly city
- a climate-neutral traffic until the year 2035
Stegner calls for higher taxation of SUVs
"Ending the car priority policy in cities and communities," demanded Ernst-Christoph Stolper, Deputy Chief of the Federal Environment and Nature Conservation Germany (BUND) at the closing rally before the IAA. Christoph Bautz, CEO of the organization Campact, shouted at the rally: "Car industry, the party is over."
The trend towards SUV criticized the chairman of the ecological transport club Germany, Kerstin Haarmann. She spoke of millions of "tanks" on the roads, which are a danger to other road users.
Via Twitter she got support from SPD Federal Vice Ralf Stegner. He took advantage of the protests to demand a higher taxation of SUVs: "This is ecologically appropriate, financially the right, strengthens road safety, especially for children," wrote Stegner on Saturday on Twitter.
Stegner, who is applying for the SPD chairmanship with Gesine Schwan, does not want to see off-road vehicles on German roads: "The PS monsters are more suited to dirt roads in the Wild West than to our cities," said the opposition leader in Schleswig-Holstein.
6 picturesProtests against the IAA: "I do not notice anything about climate change"
The protesters also want to pressure the federal government to take measures for climate-neutral traffic by 2035. "With the climate protection law this year, speed must come into the traffic turnaround", demanded the environmental federations. Transport has a special role to play. In the transport sector alone, climate-damaging carbon dioxide emissions have not fallen over the past 30 years. On Friday, the federal government wants to adopt a climate package.
How the auto industry defends itself
The auto industry has been under pressure from the EU's CO2 limits and the Paris Agreement on climate change for several years to switch to electric cars. But Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW assume that in ten years, only about half of their new cars will be emission-free.
"It would not have been true for two years ago that we publicly declare our commitment to the Paris climate protection goal," said outgoing President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), Bernhard Mattes, during a civil society dialogue. However, climate protection and sustainable individual mobility are not a contradiction.
Mattes meant not prohibitions - but innovation and technological advances would solve the problem of emissions. The auto industry will invest 40 billion euros in alternative drives over the next three years. By 2023, she would quintuple her range of e-cars and hybrid cars.
BUND speaker Stolper countered this argument: hybrids that drive only a short piece of battery electric and on longer distances with internal combustion engines, are the next trick after the diesel.
Departure from Frankfurt not excluded
According to VDA data, the IAA counted around 60,000 visitors on the first public day. The fair is suffering from exhibitor shrinkage. The organizer VDA, in which the car manufacturers and suppliers in Germany are united, therefore wants to rethink the concept. A departure of the car show from Frankfurt is not excluded. After internal strife, VDA President Mattes had announced his resignation on the opening day of this week.
Already on Thursday, there had been protests at the IAA on the sidelines of the traditional tour of German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU). On Friday participants of the climate protection movement "Fridays for Future" protested in Frankfurt against the car show.
On Sunday members of the organization "Sand in the Gear" with peaceful blockades want to disturb the flow of the fair. The organization Attac also holds two vigils. For more quality of life in the cities, the car must be pushed back, demand the organizers. The police are expecting several hundred participants.
The IAA opens its doors on Saturday for the general public. It ends next week Sunday.