• Ashleigh Chester

Enough is enough: students unite globally for climate action

On the 15th of February, students across the global united in solidarity against inaction shown by world leaders to tackle increasing

climate change warnings.

An estimated 15,000 young people joined the demonstrations as part of the ‘Youth Strike 4 Climate’ movement, which falls under the global movement ‘Schools 4 Climate Action’. Ignoring threats of disciplinary action from their schools, children and young adults across the country skipped school to demand urgent action from the UK government. And they weren’t alone—similar strikes occurred in Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and Australia, eliciting varying opinions.

The strikes in the UK were well received by politicians such as Jeremy Corbyn (Labour leader), Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, climate minister Claire Perry as well as several MPs from various parties. The strike also gained the approval of more than 200 academics, who felt that the lack of action had left young people with little option. Downing Street, however, felt that the strikes were harmful to planned lesson time.

Angela Merkel, German Prime Minster, contradicted many educational officials who criticised the strikes, saying that the climate issue was a “challenge we can only tackle together”. However, she went on further to say that although she welcomes student involvement, she implored all those striking to understand that numerous steps would need to be taken to achieve Germany’s “coal-free by 2038” goal.

So how did this all begin?

The strikes were inspired by the young climate activist Greta Thunberg, who stopped attending school on Fridays in September 2018 to protest outside the Swedish Parliament, expressing her anger at the lack of action taken by the government to address climate change (see Beacons Guides to Climate Change: Guide 2 pg 33). Her unwavering stance sparked a rapid expansion of similar ventures across the world, most notably in Europe.

Another key factor was the report published by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2018, which highlighted the dire future consequences of climate change. The report comprised more than 6000 studies, conducted and written by scientists globally. To summarise, the report indicated irreversible environmental consequences in as little as twelve years if rapid, significant reductions in CO2 emissions were not met soon. Despite the rather dark picture painted by the report, as well as increases in heatwaves and fires in 2018, CO2 emissions continue to increase. And as many of the protestors do not have the right to vote, it seemed their only option was to organise a UK-wide strike for the future of the planet—which they managed to do in just four weeks!

But what are the actual impacts of the strikes?

Although many critics dismissed the value of the strikes, participants have forced the issue to be put on the public agenda. As the next generation of voters, politicians will need to capitalise on the aims described by the strikers, especially with upcoming elections for countries such as Belgium. Good or bad, the strikes have initiated national dialogue across all countries involved and have demonstrated that young people can, and will, take action for their future.

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