Global school strikes over climate change head to the UK
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Global school strikes over climate change head to the UK

The school climate strikes that have led to tens of thousands of young people taking to the streets around the world over recent months are poised to arrive in the UK next Friday.

Thousands of pupils are expected to walk out of lessons at schools and colleges across the country amid growing concern about the escalating climate crisis.

The movement started in August when the 16-year-old schoolgirl Greta Thunberg held a solo protest outside Sweden’s parliament. Now, up to 70,000 schoolchildren each week are taking part in 270 towns and cities worldwide.

Individual protests have been held in the UK, but next week a coordinated day of action is expected to result in walkouts in more than 30 towns and cities – from Lancaster to Truro, and Ullapool to Leeds.

Jake Woodier, of the UK Youth Climate Coalition, which is helping to coordinate the strikes, said Greta’s message about the need for radical, urgent change had struck a chord with hundreds of thousand of young people in the UK.

“The images of what Greta did and then the huge strikes by schoolchildren in other countries have been widely shared by young people on social media and have really inspired people.”

He said young people were becoming increasingly radicalised by the environmental crisis and understood the need for urgent political action.

“Young people see what is happening – especially since the IPCC report last year, which spelled out that we only have 12 years left to avoid catastrophic climate change … they realise that politicians are nowhere near where they need to be on this and want to do something to change that.”

There has been some pushback against the strikes by climate deniers and politicians. Last week, Belgian’s environment minister was forced to resign after falsely claiming the country’s intelligence services held evidence that the tens of thousands of children skipping school were being directed by unnamed powers.

So far those planning to protest in the UK say they have had broad support.

Zoe Bonnett, 14, is organising a strike in Bristol next week.

“People seem to think this is an issue that can be solved another time, but there is no other time,” she said. “I know this is a drastic action, this is quite a big step that I am taking, but I do feel strongly that we have to solve it now … I have to do something. ”

Bonnett, who heard about the movement after seeing a video of Greta online, said young people had a special stake in the unfolding crisis.

“At the moment I am having to make my choices for GCSEs, and I realised that if there is going to be a bad future ahead those sort of choices are not really that important unless we do something urgent now.”

Bonnett’s mother, Joanna, said she supported her daughter’s decision to walk out of school.

“I was a bit reticent at first because I am more of a rule-keeper than a rule-breaker but as she became more enthusiastic and learned more about it and decided to set up her own strike we became very supportive.”

Bonnett said she was planning to write to the headteacher of her school to outline her plan and offer to discuss the strike.

The UK walkouts are being billed as a chance to build towards a global day of school strikes on 15 March.

Greta has already confronted world leaders with the movement’s demand for radical climate action, first at a climate meeting in Poland in December where she accused them of acting like irresponsible children; then in Davos for the World Economic Forum when she told the gathered global elite that the climate crisis was real, adding: “I want you to panic.”

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