Yesterday saw the largest climate protest in history, as millions of people across the world – of all generations – came together to demand action to combat climate change.
The movement originated from Greta Thunberg, the Swedish student who started solo striking on Fridays nearly a year ago. Her actions have inspired a global movement, with protests being seen yesterday in an estimated 185 countries.
The Global Climate Strike, which took place yesterday (20th September) and another is planned for the 27th September, brought together the school climate strikes as well as adults from various industries.
Many left their workplaces in support, including doctors and nurses and employees from firms including Amazon, Google and Facebook.
The strike aimed to “demonstrate that people are no longer willing to continue with business as usual.” Additionally, the strikers were asking for global leaders to “stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart.”
Across the world, many of the protests had their individual themes; for instance, many in the Solomon Islands focused on rising sea levels, coal expansion in Australia and air pollution in India.
Protests began on Friday in the Pacific Islands, with students from nations such as Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu and others raising their voices on the issue of rising sea levels. In Kiribati, the chants “We are not sinking, we are fighting” were heard.
Australia saw more than 300,000 people take to the streets, with around 100 rallies being held across the country. Thunberg tweeted Thursday night, from New York, that “Australia is setting the standard!”
Hundreds of activists marched through Tokyo, chanting “Climate Justice!” with boards reading “Go Green”, “Save the Earth” and “the Earth is on fire.”
India’s capital New Delhi saw protests focussed on the high levels of air pollution. One youth striker, Rishika Singh, said: “It’s the poorest who suffer the most. The rich are better off – they make the use of air conditioning and private cars for comfort.”
Primary school children called for climate action, in Nigeria. Many Nigerian cities often receive high volumes of toxic waste, including large quantities of e-waste from the EU.
Oladosu Adenike, from the Fridays4Future campaign in Nigeria, said: “Leaders should listen to what the climate scientists are saying. No leader should forfeit the future of the younger generation.”
Demonstrations were seen across most European countries, with more than 1.4 million people striking across Germany.
Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, announced on the same day that the coalition government had settled a £48 billion package of new measures to curb carbon emission towards reaching its 2030 climate target. However, the Fridays for Future movement rejected the package as being inadequate.
The UK saw thousands of people joining the global movement, with an estimated 100,000 attending a rally in central London. Additionally, more than 20,000 people were marching in Edinburgh and around 3-4,000 in Belfast, while around 200 other events were organised across the UK.
Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, said: “They should be learning, they shouldn’t be bunking off and it’s very irresponsible for people to encourage children to do so.”
While the strikes gained support from London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson.
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, gave a speech to the climate change protestors. He told young people at the Westminster rally that the “whole generation have brought [climate change] centre stage and I am absolutely delighted about that.”
The protests concluded in New York, with the education chiefs in the city permitting all the 1.1 million school children to attend the climate strikes and the chance to hear Greta Thunberg’s speech at the rally.
During her speech, she told the crowd: “We will do everything in our power to stop this crisis from getting worse, even if it means skipping school or work, because this is more important,” She added: “Why should we study for a future that is being taken away from us?”
Many other protests took place across the Americas, including in Boston, Miami, San Francisco, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City and Brasília.
The protests took place ahead of the UN Climate Action Summit, taking place on 23rd September. The summit is being convened by the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, to raise ambitions and increase climate action.
The Climate Action Summit is aiming to provide a platform for government, business and civil society to increase their commitments made in the Paris Agreement and working towards reaching net-zero emissions by mid-century.
The Secretary-General told journalists in New York that “There will be dozens of summits, meetings and side events. But I can distil the significance of all these discussions into two words: ambition and action. I see the high-level week as an excellent opportunity to showcase the United Nations as a centre for solutions and a driver for meaningful, positive change in people’s lives.”