Pupils strike for climate action

GLOBAL STRIKE: school students demand radical cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and more action on climate change (Photo: Goran Horvat)

by Nathan Roberts, whyconserve.com · According to the student-driven movement, FridaysForFuture, 15 March 2019 was a global day of action when 1.4 million schoolchildren and young people chose to strike from school in 2,233 towns and cities around the world (some 200 more than predicted).

This is their response to frustrations of inadequate response to tackle the escalating ecological crisis. They demand radical cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and for more action on climate change.

The inspiration is Greta Thunberg, a 16 year old who went on school strike outside the Swedish parliament in August last year.

Friday 15th was the biggest protest by students in the UK since the tuition fee strikes in 2010, and probably marks the biggest protest for global climate action in history.

One hundred and sixteen events were reported in the UK after the first YouthStrike4Climate event last month was supported by Christiana Figueres, former United Nations’ (UN) climate chief, saying, “It’s time to heed the deeply moving voice of the youth. The Paris Agreement was a step in the right direction, but its timely implementation is key.”

12 years to change the world
The latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published in October last year, alerts us that we have no more than 12 years to get off the path towards the worst effects of global warming. The report shows that it can be done, and outlines how.

In all four pathways to achieve success, reforestation is essential, as well as shifts to electric transport systems and greater adoption of carbon capture technology.

This includes cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent before 2030, and reaching net zero emissions by 2050. “The final tick box is political will”, said Jim Skea, a co-chair of the working group on mitigation.

In Germany, the government has pledged to phase out coal use within 20 years, and last year in the UK, just 5 per cent of electricity generation was from coal.

Today we have a great opportunity in our hands for the rapid transition to a clean, sustainable economy. Skea also said that although great progress has been made in the adoption of renewable energy, deforestation for agriculture has been turning a natural carbon sink into a source of emissions.

We must therefore, reverse this degradation so our lands, soils and forests are more productive and absorb more carbon dioxide.

In this light, global farmland use could be reduced by 75 per cent – an area equivalent to the US, China, European Union and Australia combined – if we avoid consumption of meat and dairy, potentially restoring rich, healthy natural landscapes and still feeding the world.

Nathan Roberts, founder of Why Conserve said, “Greta, a single youth, has remarkably inspired a global movement calling for greater climate action all around the world.

This is an incredible feat that has already got people out and about doing something, and I hope this will mobilise positive, effective, and urgent action amongst all generations, as individuals and decision makers.”

Writing in The Guardian, António Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations, wrote, “The climate strikers should inspire us all to act at the next UN summit.”

Due to be held in New York in September, the UN summit will bring together governments, the private sector, civil society, local authorities and other international organisations to set firm agendas in six areas: renewable energy; emission reductions; sustainable infrastructure; sustainable agriculture and management of forests and oceans; withstanding climate impacts; and investing in the green economy.

He writes: “The latest analysis shows that if we act now, we can reduce carbon emissions within 12 years and limit global warming to 1.5 °C.’ Encouragingly, he continues, ‘Business is on our side. Accelerated climate solutions can strengthen our economies and create jobs, while bringing cleaner air, preserving natural habitats and biodiversity, and protecting our environment.

“New technologies and engineering solutions are already delivering energy at a lower cost than the fossil-fuel driven economy.

“Solar and onshore wind are now the cheapest sources of new bulk power in virtually all major economies. But we must set radical change in motion.

“This means ending subsidies for fossil fuels and high-emitting agriculture and shifting towards renewable energy, electric vehicles and climate-smart practices… and it means accelerating the closure of coal plants and replacing jobs with healthier alternatives so that the transformation is just, inclusive and profitable.”

The secretary general closes with a message to those involved on Friday: “I know young people can and do change the world. The more I see your commitment and activism, the more confident I am that we will win.

“Together, with your help and thanks to your efforts, we can and must beat this threat and create a cleaner, safer, greener world for everyone.”

• Further strikes are planned in March and April. Details at fridaysforfuture.org

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