Swiss Climate Activists Continue To Protest, But Change 'Is Not Easy'

(MENAFN- Swissinfo) On Friday activists gather in Swiss cities for the latest“global climate strike”. As numbers on the streets dwindle, is the movement still influential?

This content was published on April 18, 2024 - 11:33 8 minutes

Originally from Ireland, Domhnall worked in research and writing in a couple of European countries before joining swissinfo in 2017. He covers direct democracy and Politics and is usually in Bern.

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In September 2019 Swiss climate activism hit the big time when 100,000 people demonstrated in Bern, many of them inspired by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg's global climate movement.

A month later, parliamentary elections vindicated the mood, with the Green Party making unprecedented gains.

Things have since gone a bit differently: following a pandemic, various wars, a cost-of-living squeeze, and a banking collapse, carbon emissions are still a top concern for the Swiss population – but not always the top. While people are largely aware of climate issues, they aren't always ready to act accordingly: the Greens slipped back again in 2023 elections, Zurich airport is thriving, SUV sales are booming, and numbers at Swiss climate protests have“melted faster than the glaciers”, as the Tages-Anzeiger wrote last year.

“I didn't even think it would be necessary to still be campaigning five years later,” says activist Meret Schefer.“In 2019 we thought we could change everything. It was very powerful. Over the years you learn it's not that easy.”

Schefer, who was a 15-year-old secondary-school student in 2019, is now a spokeswoman for Fridays for Future, a movement known in Switzerland as“Climate Strike”. She is also one of the few remaining members who have been around from the start.

“We've lost a few people along the way,” she says. Some have moved on to other roles with environmental aims; others just dropped off. She doesn't begrudge anyone for doing that, she says. Climate campaigning is hard work, and“not the way we should be spending our youth”.

This Friday the movement will organise its latest“strike” in Bern and other Swiss cities, with four key demands: an end to fossil fuel use, a boosting of renewable infrastructure, a democratisation of the energy sector, and a“socially fair” reduction in energy usage.

However, 100,000 are unlikely to turn up.“If 2,000 come, I'm happy,” Schefer says.

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