“There is no Planet B”

Throughout February and March, thousands of children and young people across the UK and the rest of the globe, walked out of school to join a national climate strike. Protests have been held in more than 60 different towns and cities up and down the UK and across the world, highlighting the anger felt towards politicians for the failure to tackle the escalating climate crisis and calling upon them to take action

The action was part of a much wider global movement, known as Schools 4 Climate Action, started by 15-year-old Swedish national, Greta Thunberg in September 2018. Great skipped classes to sit outside government buildings in Sweden, accusing her country of not following the Paris Climate Agreement.

Speaking after recent protests in the UK, Anna Taylor, a vocal and prominent member of the movement, said the turnout had been overwhelming. “It goes some way to proving that young people aren’t apathetic, we’re passionate, articulate and we’re ready to continue demonstrating the need for urgent and radical climate action.”

According to the UK Student Climate Network the largest UK protests were held in London, Brighton, Oxford and Exeter, and aimed to highlight Schools 4 Climate Action’s four main demands:

  • The government should declare a “climate emergency”
  • It should also inform the public about the seriousness of the situation
  • The national curriculum should be reformed to include “the ecological crisis”
  • The age of voting should be lowered to 16 to allow younger people to  be involved in decision-making around environmental issues.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said that, while it was important for young people to engage with issues like climate change, the disruption to planned lesson time was damaging for pupils. The National Association of Head Teachers also commented that it did not condone children missing school to take part in the action and that “nothing is more important than a child’s education”.

Despite some negative views, praise for the young protesters came from many. Christiana Figueres, who led the historic 2015 Paris agreement, said the fact children were so worried about their future and were prepared to strike should make adults sit up and take notice. “It is a sign that we are failing in our responsibility to protect them from the worsening impacts of climate change.”

Energy minister Claire Perry said she was “incredibly proud” of young people’s passion and concern. She told the BBC: “I suspect if this was happening 40 years ago, I would be out there too.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said schoolchildren were “right to feel let down by the generation before them”, while Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said it was the “most hopeful thing that’s happened in years”.

As Earth Day approaches, it is believed that more protests will occur.

In the words of one of the protest banners, “There is no planet B”.

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