I walked out of school to protest the Iraq War, and today I’m standing with the Climate Strike.
The Iraq War was a disaster. It cost an unbelievable amount of time and money, destabilised the Middle East and led to a horrendous loss of human life, all based on shoddy intelligence and an utter lack of leadership. That’s why in 2003 I, along with my fellow sixth-formers at Bassaleg School in Newport, walked out of our classes and went on strike in protest. We could not stand by while adults who wanted us to sit down and behave were happy to lead our country down such a perilous path. In one hundred years time, we thought, scholars will look back and ask how such a monumental mess was allowed to happen.
Fast forward to today. Climate breakdown threatens to transform the world as we know it. If the Iraq War was the great political crisis of its time, climate change is the great political crisis in human history. And much like the Iraq War, our leaders seem to be making all the wrong moves.
The International Panel on Climate Change warned us last year that we have only 12 years to take positive action to stop climate destruction. Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C within the next twelve years. That kind of radical climate change would lead to extreme weather events becoming more frequent, oceans becoming further acidified and add to the millions of people around the world already displaced as a result of climate change.
Climate change needs radical global action, and that action is needed now. Too often we see governments taking a lackadaisical approach, assuming that other countries will simply pick up the slack. From Heathrow expansion to authorising fracking in Lancashire, they pursue actions that will increase our carbon emissions and further fund the fossil fuel fat cats. The government has shown that the climate agenda is not a priority. Bringing a keep cup to cabinet meetings does not make Environment Secretary Michael Gove a serious change-maker, and we will not forgive the Tories for their failure to act.
Britain’s youth are miles ahead of the Conservative Government on the climate crisis
And that’s what makes the climate strike so inspiring. The young people of this country are not going to stand idly by while their future is taken away from them. They are rising up and they are taking action. Now it's for our leaders to take notice. Climate change is not inevitable, but to stop it, we need to take radical action – starting right now.
We’ll have to change our energy systems, moving away from fossil fuels and embracing ambitious green energy projects like the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon. We’ll have to change the way we manage our land, moving towards organic farming and wiping out destructive pesticides. And we’ll need to re-organise our cities, heavily investing in walking, cycling and clean public transport infrastructure. I’m proud that more than 20 councils around the country, as a result of Green Party action, have declared climate emergencies. But this is just the start. We need radical action and we need it now.
A low-carbon Britain, which leads on the world stage, is more achievable than ever. The political, economic, social and technical feasibility of solar energy, wind energy, and electricity storage has increased massively over the past few years. We are ready for a system transition, and it’s our young people that are leading that charge.
It’s often said that the people are always ahead of the politicians on the big issues. Right now, Britain’s youth are miles ahead of the Conservative Government on the climate crisis. Young people understand that we are on a time limit – it’s now time for this government to get that too.