Klimaliste is a German political party founded by young climate activists

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In many ways you seem to position yourself as a youth party – one of your fundamental policies is lower the voting age, and you are founded by students. What do you think of the ability of young people to shape politics and policies?

I think that in politics, young people are really under-represented and not really in the debate. I think you can also see that right now, like the way students are suffering from the corona crisis, you don’t really hear about it in the media. You don’t see politicians taking care of it. I do not know [if] Klimalist is the [only] way to fix it, but there are problems with the way political parties are structured. When you want to be politically active you have to start at a very low level, like hanging up election posters – you have to move slowly.

With us you can just walk in, and you don’t even have to be a member. I think a lot of young people want to get involved in politics, want to be politically active. But for some reason, political parties seem really unattractive to them.

Thirteen percent of voters under 30 in Baden-Württemberg voted for groups listed as “other” in the last regional elections – voting for an unestablished party therefore seems to appeal to many.

Yes. In the established parties, there are people who arrive with ideals, but we must progress. And when you’re finally in a position of a little bit of power, you just do what keeps you elected. The difference with Klimaliste is that you don’t have to climb the ranks. You don’t have to be in Parliament because that’s all you’ve done in the last 10 to 15 years – you’re much more free to do what’s really needed on the climate side.

Are you worried about dividing the vote or do you think people should be able to vote even for small parties if they believe in it? Klimalist gained 0.9% in the state of Baden-Württemberg, which may have been enough to prevent an environmentalist-social-democratic coalition, but you also forced these parties to adopt more climate-oriented policies.

I think that’s a strange way of thinking about democracy in politics. As, [thinking] all these people who voted for Klimalist would have voted for the Greens, that is just not doable. And there were so many people who reached out and said […] “It’s so good that you’re here, for the past 20 years I didn’t really know who to vote for. Now I finally see a party that really represents what I really want. It’s not as easy as saying that the votes we got would otherwise have gone to the Greens.

With the change of speech, there will be more people who will vote for the climate in particular, and I think that can also help the Greens. The Social Democratic Party (SDP), the Greens and the Left Party all support, at least in their words… 1.5 degrees [Paris Accord] Politics. Of course, it’s not just Klimalist, but I really think we played a part.

The Greens said ahead of the election that they wanted to stay in touch with us regardless of the outcome, and we have a lot of scientists on board. I think a really big problem with parties is that they don’t really have [enough] skill.

What do you think of voters in other countries? The United States, for example, has independent candidates, but they are rarely elected.

In the United States, I don’t think Klimaliste is the way to go. The “winner takes it all” system… I think you are hurting yourself. What you need to do there is really get into the Democratic Party – I don’t see, at least nationally, Republicans pushing climate change anytime soon. At least there are [of this energy] around Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Green New Deal; we sometimes talk a lot [about climate] to the Democratic Party.

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