Green MP Caroline Lucas is set to join school children in Brighton taking part in a strike over climate change on Friday (15 February).
The MP for Brighton Pavilion and former Green Party leader will address more than 100 students at Brighton clock tower as they join the nationwide UK day of action, which is expected to see thousands of children refuse to attend school in protest at the government’s failure to drastically reduce the UK’s carbon emissions. More than 50 events across the country have so far been confirmed.
The movement of school strikes over climate change was inspired by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish activist who first went on school strike last August. Tens of thousands of children have since refused to attend school in similar protests in Australia, the Netherlands and Belgium.
The strikes have gained the support of the NAHT head teachers’ union and received backing from more than 200 academics in a letter to the Guardian.
The urgent action needed to curb climate change has been brought into starker relief over the past few months, with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stating that global temperature rises must be limited to no more than 1.5ºC (above pre-industrial levels) within 12 years in order to avoid a significant worsening of the impacts of climate change. These impacts could lead to systemic collapse similar to that seen during the 2008 financial crisis, according to a report released by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) on 12 February.
In light of the seriousness and imminence of the threat posed by climate change, the striking students are demanding:
The government declares a Climate Emergency and prioritise the protection of life on Earth, taking active steps to achieve climate justice;
The national curriculum is reformed to address the ecological crisis as an educational priority;
The government communicates the severity of the ecological crisis and the necessity to act now to the general public; and
The government recognises that young people have the biggest stake in our future, by incorporating youth views into policy making and bringing the voting age down to 16.
Commenting on the school strikes, Caroline Lucas MP said: "Our children recognise that this is a climate emergency. They are striking this week because they know we cannot carry on as normal.
“Young people are watching as droughts, floods and storms devastate communities across the globe every day. They are watching as thousands of species go extinct. And they are watching the adults who run the world carry on as normal.
“Teachers work hard to prepare students for their future – but right now that future is at serious risk. It’s inspiring that this generation is already taking action to build a fairer, safer world. Those in government now must follow their lead.”
The rise of the school strikes movement has been accompanied by a series of Climate Emergency declarations by councils around the world, looking to take action on a local level in the face of dithering by national governments on climate change policy.
In the UK, Bristol City Council was the first to make a Climate Emergency declaration back in November 2018. Since then, authorities including the Forest of Dean, Scarborough, Brighton and Hove, the London Assembly and other town, city, borough and district councils across the country have passed motions declaring Climate Emergencies. The motions all include a pledge to become carbon neutral by 2030.