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Explained: What is the Global Climate Strike movement?

The global strikes will commence just as the United Nations Climate Action Summit 2019 is set to take place in New York on September 23, where Thunberg has been invited.

Written by Mehr Gill , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: September 20, 2019 4:30:25 pm
Explained: What is the Global Climate Strike movement? Environmental activist play dead as they participate in a Global Climate Strike in Bangkok, Thailand on September 20, 2019. (Reuters Photo: Soe Zeya)

Students in more than 2,000 cities across the world are holding demonstrations under the #FridaysforFuture movement, protesting inaction towards climate change. In a parallel movement, millions of adults will be joining them in the Global #ClimateStrike. While students will be walking out of classrooms, adults will be walking out of their workplaces and homes. Both movements will last for a week, commencing today and ending on September 27.

What is the Global Climate Strike movement?

The #FridaysforFuture movement, also known as the Youth Strike for Climate Movement, started in August 2018 after Greta Thunberg sat outside the Swedish parliament every school day for three weeks to protest against inaction towards climate change and called for concrete government action.

Then in September 2018, Thunberg called for a strike every Friday until the Swedish parliament revised its policies towards climate change. Gradually, students and adults from across the world started mobilising and demonstrating in front of parliaments and local city halls in their respective countries, making global, a local movement.

According to the #FFF website, students and adults from 185 countries will be participating in the week-long demonstrations. “In thousands of events taking place from September 20th through 27th, millions of us will walk out of our classrooms, workplaces and homes to join together in the streets and demand climate action and climate justice,” the #FFF website says. The strikes are registered to take place in over 2,350 cities.

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In India, apart from major cities such as New Delhi, Chennai, Pune and Mumbai, strikes have been scheduled in Phagwara (Punjab), Nagercoil (Tamil Nadu), Kishangarh (Rajasthan), Solapur (Maharashtra), Aluva (Kerala), Honnali (Karnataka), Gauriganj (Uttar Pradesh), Ambikapur (Chhattisgarh), East Khasi Hills (Meghalaya) and Mangaldoi (Assam) among several other places spread across the length and breadth of the country.

Explained: What is the Global Climate Strike movement? Environmental activists participate in a Global Climate Strike near the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment office in Bangkok, Thailand September 20, 2019. (Reuters Photo: Soe Zeya Tun)

In March, youth climate strikes took place in over 100 countries with thousands of students participating. This was followed by strikes that originated in Australia and New Zealand in May, after Australia witnessed it’s hottest summer.

In the present phase of the strikes, students are demanding “urgent” and “decisive” action in order to keep global average temperatures from rising above 1.5 degree Celsius. The global strikes will commence just as the United Nations Climate Action Summit 2019 is set to take place in New York on September 23, where Thunberg has been invited.

These global school movements have been supported by scientists as well. In March, a group of scientists wrote an open letter declaring their support for the students and their cause. “Students’ demands for bold, urgent action are fully supported by the best available science. They need our support, but more than that, they need all of us to act. Their future depends on it; and so does ours,” the letter said. This letter was signed by climate scientists including Peter Kalmus, Kate Marvel and Michael Mann among others. Scientists are expected to participate in the ongoing strikes as well.

Even so, it has received mixed reactions from the non-scientific community. In the UK, while Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn expressed his support for the “young people” in a tweet, the former UK prime minister criticised the students, saying that they should instead focus on becoming the professionals who can help in solving the problem.

Explained: What is the Global Climate Strike movement? People dressed in animal costumes attend a climate change protest in Colombo, Sri Lanka September 20, 2019. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

What started the global school student movements?

The global school movements began in 2015. A Climate Strike was organised in November 2015, the idea for which came to the organisers at the Global Youth Summit of 2015. Under this strike, students were urged to skip school and join other protestors. The strike was meant to be a “wake-up call” for the young generation. Their demands at that time were to stop the extraction of fossil fuels and to make the transition to 100 per cent clean energy.

“A globally coordinated action by the young generation to answer the inability of the old generations to solve the climate issue,” the Climate Strike website says.

Why are students protesting this time? 

Even though climate change affects everyone, the present generation of youngsters are the ones who are going to be bearing the brunt of it in the coming decades. The sentiments behind these school student movements are the “broken promises” of older generations, members of which continue to extract and use fossil fuels, leading to increased CO2 emissions and subsequently, increasing average global temperatures.

“They promised to cut CO2 emissions but they have not done their homework. Instead, they keep digging and drilling for more coal, oil and gas” declares a poster prepared by the Climate Strike 2015 organisers.

Distrust of political leaders among the younger generation is also a reason why they feel the need to take things into their own hands. “We are being mocked and lied about by elected officials, members of Parliament’s, business leaders, journalists,” Thunberg said in a speech she delivered at the National Assembly in Paris in July.

Some however, are taking the legal route. In 2015, 21 young plaintiffs filed a federal lawsuit, Juliana vs. United States against the US government for violating their constitutional rights by allowing the presence of dangerous emissions. The most recent hearing was held on June 4.

Explained: What is the Global Climate Strike movement? Students attend a climate change protest in Marovo Island, Solomon Islands, September 20, 2019. (350 PACIFIC/via Reuters)

Who is Greta Thunberg?

Thunberg describes herself as a “16-year-old climate activist with Asperger’s”. She says that she first heard about “something called climate change or global warming” when she was eight years old. “If burning fossil fuels was so bad, that it threatened our very existence, how could we just continue like before?” she puts forth the question to her audience at the TEDxStockholm 2019.

Since 2018, when she started skipping school, Thunberg has come a long way to become one of the world’s youngest climate change crusaders. She has delivered speeches at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the EU Parliament, COP24, and to the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

“…how can we expect countries like India, Colombia or Nigeria to care about the climate crisis if we, who already have everything, don’t care even a second about our actual commitments to the Paris agreement?” she said in the speech to Guterres.

In August, Thunberg set sail from the Mayflower Arena in England aboard Malizia II, to participate in the United Nations climate talks in New York. Due to the carbon footprint of air travel, she refused to fly, The New York Times reported. She also stopped eating meat a few years ago because of the emissions associated with animal protein, according to the report. Her transatlantic voyage has received a lot of media attention since then.

On Wednesday, she told members of the Congress in the United States to “listen to the scientists” citing a report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in October 2018.

Earlier this year, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize 2019, the winners of which will be announced in October.

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