Green Party co-leaders Sian Berry and Jonathan Bartley joined calls for a global climate strike in September at the party’s conference in Scarborough.
The proposed strike follows the global days of action on 15 March and 24 May, when school students and young people left their lessons and took to the streets in some of the biggest organised environmental protests the world has ever seen. The school strike movement was inspired by the 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who has been striking every Friday since September 2018; her ‘Fridays for Future’ actions have now become an international protest.
A third global strike has been planned for 20 September 2019, and youth activists like Thunberg are now calling on everyone, not just students, to join in. High-profile environmentalists and celebrities have pledged to recognise the strike on 20 September, with writer Naomi Klein and other signatories penning a call to action in the Guardian.
“Young people have laid down a challenge. And we will take it up."
Speaking at the Green Party conference on Saturday (8 June), the party’s co-leaders pledged their support to the campaign, with Bartley stating: “We want to pay a special tribute to all the young people who walked out of school to strike for our climate. As we marched alongside them, they told us they were calling out our generation and the ones that have gone before. Asking why they should go to school when their very future is being stolen from them.
“Young people have laid down a challenge. And conference, we will take it up. Today we are joining that call for a global strike in September. So we say this to those able to do so: 'Tell your friends. Tell your family. Tell your employers that the emergency is right here, right now. And we must strike for the climate.'”
A series of high-profile public demonstrations have succeeded in bringing environmental issues to the fore, with the Extinction Rebellion protest group bringing parts of central London to a standstill over the course of a 10-day protest in April, blocking roads and bridges, obstructing trains and glueing themselves to buildings to demand that the government takes action against the escalating climate crisis.
“We face unprecedented extinction and loss of our natural world,” said Bartley’s co-leader Sian Berry at the Green Party conference. “And something very special is happening in response – there is a new spirit of resistance… In the face of an unprecedented crisis, people across the world who have never done this before are taking unprecedented mass direct action, and breaking laws.”
As well as pledging support for the strike in September, Berry added that Greens were calling for a ‘climate amnesty’ – an end to court proceedings against the 1,100 activists who took part in Extinction Rebellion protests and are now facing criminal charges.
Greens standing up to the far right
Held on 7-10 June, the conference comes after a series of successful elections for the Greens that have seen the party placed firmly on the local and international political map. Local elections saw the Green Party making historic gains, doubling the number of Greens on councils and breaking new ground in a number of areas not traditionally known for Green support, such as Sunderland and East Devon.
Following this success, Greens came fourth in the UK in the EU elections, sending seven MEPs to Brussels, with 12 per cent of the national vote taking them ahead of the Conservatives, which achieved only nine per cent.
While climate action was front and centre in the leaders’ speech, they also took the opportunity to thank attendees for the positive gains made in recent elections in the face of a rising tide of right wing populism. “The Green Party are at the forefront of standing up to the far right – right across Europe. They have their own violent vision for the future. But we hold the tools to stop them,” said Bartley.
“The old politics is not working, and all the old parties are responsible,” added Berry. “They have all given ground to the right, on freedom of movement, on Europe, on public spending. Labour and Conservatives yes, but let’s not forget that while the Lib Dems paint themselves as the defenders of liberal, internationalist values, they were all too happy to sign up to the austerity programme that has cost an estimated 130,000 lives.
“They waved through the bedroom tax. They hiked tuition fees. They cut our welfare state. And no amount of rebranding will change that.”