Thousands of climate change activists block entrance to Frankfurt auto show

BILL HUTCHINSON

Thousands of climate change activists block entrance to Frankfurt auto show originally appeared on abcnews.go.com

Thousands of climate-change activists formed a human roadblock on Sunday to the Frankfurt auto show, one of the largest car industry showcases in the world.

Protesters, many wearing surgical masks and white hazmat suits, blocked the entrance to Germany's 68th annual International Auto Show, demanding German lawmakers to dramatically reduce carbon emissions and some calling for a ban on gas-guzzling SUVs.

“The automotive industry makes money by destroying the environment,” Marion Tiemann of the environmental activist group Greenpeace, one of the organizers of the protest, told demonstrators. “We’re in the midst of a climate crisis.”

PHOTO: Demonstrators from the action group 'Sand im Getriebe' (grit in the gears) are calling for a change in transport policy and in the motor industry, Sept. 15, 2019, outside the fairgrounds in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany. (Frank Rumpenhorst/AFP/Getty Images)

It was the second day of mass protests at the auto show, where inside some 800 auto manufacturers showed off their latest models.

(MORE: The DBX SUV could be Aston Martin's 'most important car ever')

Protesters launched their attempt to disrupt the show on Saturday, when tens of thousands of demonstrators, including several thousand on bicycles, clogged major roads leading to the auto exhibition.

On Sunday, protesters returned to the Frankfurt show, blocking the entrance and holding banners that said, "Make love not CO2." Others called for an outright ban on SUVs.

The four-day show -- which included the latest vehicles from iconic German automakers Mercedes, Porsche, BMW and Volkswagen -- began on Thursday with a speech from German Chancellor Angela Merkel in which she challenged the auto industry to the "Herculean task" of coming up with "climate-friendly" vehicles.

"High mobility will have its price, if more efficient, climate-friendly vehicles are not manufactured," Merkel said in her speech.

PHOTO: Demonstrators on bicycles are pictured on their way over the A 648 motorway to protest against the Frankfurt motor show IAA 2019, in Frankfurt am Main Germany, Sept. 14, 2019. (Daniel Roland/AFP/Getty Images)

She added that "no reduction in CO2 from the total volume of traffic has been achieved" since 1990.

"We are still a long way from having 100 percent renewable energy," said Merkel, who is scheduled to chair the first meeting of her high-level climate cabinet on Sept. 20.

Germany has pledged to cut carbon emissions by 55% from 1990 levels by 2030.

Some German car manufacturers are using the show to debut their latest electric and hybrid models, including Porsche's rollout of its all-electric $150,000 Taycan.

PHOTO: Demonstrators from the action group 'Sand im Getriebe' (grit in the gears) are calling for change in transport policy, Sept. 15, 2019, outside the fairgrounds in Frankfurt am Main, western German (Boris Roessler/AFP/Getty Images)

Bernhard Mattes, the president of the German Association of the Automotive Industry, also spoke at the show, telling manufacturers they are facing the "most profound transformation our industry has ever had to overcome."

"Yes, too many vehicles in a city affects our quality of life through noise, fumes, and by taking up space," Mattes said.

(MORE: 'It's time for car companies to wake up': Women now the focus of the industry)

But Mattes went on to say that imposing more climate regulations and banning SUVs will not help the industry meet goals of cutting carbon emissions and traffic. He emphasized that innovation will produce a greener auto industry.

The protests over the weekend in Germany came just days after 16-year-old Swedish climate-change activist Greta Thunberg led a large protest outside the White House and called on Congress and President Donald Trump to take action on the climate crisis.

(MORE: Teenage climate change activist Greta Thunberg takes global protest to White House)

Thunberg, who gained notoriety last month by sailing to the United States from Europe as an alternative to air travel, encouraged young people to participate in Global Climate Strikes on Sept. 20 that are planned for major cities around the world.

(MORE: Auto insiders get candid about the industry's biggest trends)

“I am so incredibly grateful for every single one of you and I’m so proud of you who have come here," Thunberg told the crowd gathered on Friday in a park across the street from the White House. “Never give up, we will continue and see you next week on Sept. 20.”