World In German election, hunger strikers seek climate promises
Merkel: Integrating Balkans into EU is strategic for both
BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — It's in the European Union's strategic interests to integrate the Balkan states into the bloc, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday as she urged Serbia and other countries in the region to do more on democratic reforms in order to join. The Western Balkan states — which include Serbia, Bosnia, North Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo — have for decades sought EU membership. But due to the bloc’s stalled interest in enlargement and the years of diplomatic crises the EU faced as Britain left the bloc, those Balkan nations have been left to seek other alliances, including with Russia and China.
BERLIN (AP) — After three-and-a-half weeks on a hunger strike, Henning Jeschke is frail and gaunt, but determined to go on, still hoping to pressure the three candidates for chancellor of Germany into meeting him for a debate about the climate crisis ahead of Sunday’s general election.
For the first time in Germany, climate change is perhaps the most dominant issue in an election campaign, especially for young voters. It's at the center of televised debates among candidates, and five of the six main parties offer plans with varying degrees of detail for slowing global warming.
Advocates fear US weighing climate vs. human rights on China
U.S. envoy John Kerry’s diplomatic quest to stave off the worst scenarios of global warming is meeting resistance from China, the world's biggest climate polluter, which is adamant that the United States ease confrontation over other matters if it wants Beijing to speed up its climate efforts. Rights advocates and Republican lawmakers say they see signs, including softer language and talk of heated internal debate among Biden administration officials, that China’s pressure is leading the United States to back off on criticism of China’s mass detentions, forced sterilization and other abuses of its predominantly Muslim Uyghur minority in the Xinjiang region.
But young climate activists — who pitched a protest tent camp in a park in Berlin's government district last month — fear politicians’ promises will quickly dissipate after the vote or give way to pressure from special interests. Jeschke and six others launched a hunger strike Aug. 30.
As Merkel bids farewell, German women wish for more equality
BERLIN (AP) — Angela Merkel, Germany's first female chancellor, has been praised by many for her pragmatic leadership in a turbulent world and celebrated by some as a feminist icon. But a look at her track record over her 16 years at Germany's helm reveals missed opportunities for fighting gender inequality at home. Named “The World’s Most Powerful Woman” by Forbes magazine for the last 10 years in a row, Merkel has been cast as a powerful defender of liberal values in the West. She has easily stood her ground at male-dominated summits with leaders such as former U.S. President Donald Trump or Russian President Vladimir Putin.
On Wednesday, the 24th day without food, Jeschke was resting on a mattress in the center of the camp, propped up on one elbow, giving back-to-back interviews and taking occasional sips of tea.
He said the hunger strike was an act of despair because he and his fellow activists believe that "in this time of climate collapse, there are no honest conversations, that party programs are insufficient and that we urgently need to take action against the climate catastrophe.”
At this point, it's unlikely the candidates — Olaf Scholz of the center-left Social Democrats, Armin Laschet of the center-right Union bloc or even Annalena Baerbock of the pro-environment Greens — will show.
They have urged the strikers to end their protest amid health concerns, instead offering private meetings after the vote, presumably to avoid encounters that could go off the rails. Baerbock spoke to the strikers by phone and expressed empathy for their frustration, A spokeswoman for Scholz said he met with some of them and their supporters after a campaign stop near Berlin.
Climate change tops agenda as Iceland heads to elections
REYKJAVIK , Iceland (AP) — Climate change is top of the agenda when voters in Iceland head to the polls for general elections on Saturday, following an exceptionally warm summer and an election campaign defined by a wide-reaching debate on global warming. All nine parties running for seats at the North Atlantic island nation’s Parliament, or Althing, acknowledge global warming as a force of change in a sub-Arctic landscape. But politicians disagree on whether Iceland should take more urgent action to help curb climate change, or capitalize on it as an opportunity for economic growth — as the melting of glaciers and warmer weather offer immediate gains for Iceland’s key
Six of the hunger strikers have halted the protest, including three on Wednesday. Jeschke, though, said he would continue and would refuse liquids, starting Thursday evening, if the demands weren't met.
The 21-year-old from the northeastern town of Greifswald, who quit his political science studies for full-time activism, has already lost 11 kilos (24 pounds) and said his parents are worried.
“My mother is at home in tears, my father comes to visit again and again, but they also see that it’s necessary,” he said.
Which US state reps have the best records on climate policy?
A new report evaluates elected officials in 25 state legislatures on their records on climate change policy.The average American isn’t paying much attention. Fewer than 20% of US citizens can name their state legislators, while one-third don’t know their governor, according to a study by John Hopkins University. But state senators and representatives are often the ones making decisions about land use, extractive industries, energy efficiency, and more with the most immediate impact on constituents’ quality of life.
Lena Bonasera, 24, who joined the hunger strike Monday, said the activists first met during Fridays For Future protests, as part of the international youth-led movement launched in 2018 by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.
The Oxford-educated Bonasera, who also vowed to stop taking liquids as of Thursday evening, said she halted work on her dissertation on civil disobedience to make time for the campaign.
“I asked myself, why me, and my mom also asked this," she said of her decision to risk her health for her beliefs. “But once you allow yourself to feel how terrible the climate crisis really is, then I have no choice but to act this way."
This Friday, youth activists plan to stage large-scale international protests against climate change, weeks before leaders gather for a U.N. summit in Glasgow. Thunberg is expected at the Berlin rally, taking place just two days before an election that the Greens and climate activists say amounts to the last chance for Europe's biggest economy to correct course.
Closely fought German election ushers in post-Merkel era
BERLIN (AP) — German voters are choosing a new parliament in an election that will determine who succeeds Chancellor Angela Merkel after her 16 years at the helm of Europe's biggest economy. Polls point to a very close race Sunday between Merkel's center-right Union bloc, with state governor Armin Laschet running for chancellor, and the center-left Social Democrats, for whom outgoing finance minister and Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz is seeking the top job.
The hunger strike has made some ripples, even if there won't be a pre-election debate.
Climate scientist Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, who has advised Pope Francis, Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU chief Ursula von der Leyen, spoke to the protesters by Zoom this week, urging them to start eating again and offering to connect them to decision-makers after the election.
In an open letter, Schellnhuber lent legitimacy to the activists' warnings, writing that Earth will warm by close to 3 degrees Celsius this century if current climate policies continue worldwide, and that there is even an outside risk that large parts of the planet will become uninhabitable.
“This risk may be small, but would we push our children into a school bus that had a 5% chance of being predicted to be fatal?” he wrote in the letter, widely circulated in the German media.
But Schellnhuber told the activists it's not the time yet for drastic measures, such as hunger strikes. He said he senses a political opening, with leading politicians more willing to tackle the issue. In a phone interview with The Associated Press, he said he believes after conversations with Scholz that the front-runner “takes the issue far more seriously than a few years ago.”
The Latest: Some German voters struggle to pick next leader
The Latest on Germany's election: ___ BERLIN — Voters are delivering a mixed verdict on the era of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel as they choose a new German parliament, and some are struggling with the choice of potential new leaders. Polls opened Sunday after a rollercoaster campaign. Recent surveys point to a very close race between Merkel’s center-right Union bloc and the center-left Social Democrats, with the Greens trailing in third. In___
In the climate debate, two camps have emerged, with the Greens offering the most comprehensive program for making Germany carbon neutral with a mix of government incentives and penalties for polluters. Scholz' Social Democrats also propose government-driven change, but with more time than demanded by the Greens to phase out coal plants and combustion engines.
In the other camp, the Christian Democrats and the pro-business Free Democrats argue that market-driven innovation should take the lead.
The race between the parties remains close, with the Social Democrats just a few percentage points ahead in the polls.
Whatever the final outcome, the focus on climate change in public debate is unprecedented, driven in part by young activists, observers said.
“We can feel that this is a generation that is being politicized by the issue of climate change,” said Sascha Müller-Kraenner of Deutsche Umwelthilfe, a veteran environmental protection group. “It's an enormous opportunity for our democracy ... that an entire generation has been mobilized.”
Mueller-Kraenner's group has taken companies with some of the highest carbon emissions to court, filing lawsuits this week against carmakers Mercedes and BMW.
He said such lawsuits and the street protests complement each other. “In the end it’s the politicians who need to make the decisions, but we must keep up this positive pressure on them,” he said.
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Climate activist Nakate seeks immediate action in Glasgow .
MILAN (AP) — Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate said Wednesday that youth delegates meeting in Milan want to see immediate action from leaders at the U.N. climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland — not cheap, last-ditch grasps at supporting polluting fuels before getting down to business. Nakate is among 400 activists invited to Italy’s financial capital for a three-day Youth4Climate meeting that will draft a document for the 26th Climate Change Conference of the Parties, which opens on Oct. 31.