Students have joined school strikes around the world demanding that politicians take urgent action on climate change, with youngsters set to take part across the UK.
Young people have already taken to the streets in places including New Zealand, Australia, Japan, the Philippines, Nepal, India and European cities as part of an expected 2,000 events in more than 120 countries.
In the UK, walkouts are taking place in more than 100 towns and cities, driven by what students say is “an alarming lack of government leadership on climate action”.
The global day of action has been inspired by teenager Greta Thunberg, who protests every Friday outside Sweden’s parliament to urge leaders to tackle climate change.
The first students have already begun to gather for a protest in London’s Parliament Square, including Greta Breveglieri, 21, a political science student at Univesita Statale Di Milano, who travelled from Italy for the demonstration.
“To put it bluntly, we’re here because our world is going to be destroyed. We have to change the pace of our culture, our society, our politics, our economics,” she said.
A poll ahead the walkouts suggests a majority of the British public support UK students who first ditched lessons and lectures for demonstrations on February 15 to call for greater climate action.
There is also significant public support for cutting the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions to zero as soon as possible, with 70% saying it is important the Government takes action to do so, the survey by Opinium suggests.
Organisers here say they expect attendances to be larger than the first UK strike on February 15, which saw thousands of students defy headteachers and politicians to ditch lessons for demonstrations.
Students in the UK are demanding the Government declare a climate emergency and take active steps to tackle the problem, communicate the severity of the ecological crisis to the public and reform the curriculum to make it an educational priority.
They also want recognition that young people have the biggest stake in the future, to be involved in policymaking, and for the voting age to be lowered to 16.
Their calls come in the wake of a UN report last year which warned that limiting global temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, beyond which climate impacts become increasingly severe, requires unprecedented action.
That includes cutting global carbon dioxide emissions by almost half within 12 years, and to zero by mid-century.
While recognising the importance of climate change in response to the first UK strike, Downing Street said the disruption increased teachers’ workloads and wasted lesson time, and Education Secretary Damian Hinds said missing class was not the answer.
Now Conservative MPs have lined up to praise the “inspirational strikers” ahead of the latest action, highlight steps the UK has taken and pledge to do more.
In a video released ahead of Friday’s strikes, Environment Secretary Michael Gove tells students walking out of lessons and lectures to call for urgent action on cutting emissions: “Dear school climate strikers, we agree.
“Collective action of the kind you’re championing can make a difference, and a profound one.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has also backed the strikers, tweeting: “Thank you for standing up against climate change. You shouldn’t have to pay the price for the mistakes of previous generations.”
Cat Smith, shadow minister for youth affairs, said Labour stands “in solidarity” with young people across the UK taking action over the Government’s lack of leadership on climate change.
“Today’s strike demonstrates that young people care deeply about environmental issues and will use their collective power to bring about meaningful change,” she said.
“This should serve as a wake-up call to the political establishment that young people’s views can no longer be ignored, and urgent action is needed to tackle the escalating ecological crisis.”