Thousands of New Zealand and Australian students have taken to the streets on Friday as a global day of school strike against climate change inaction got underway.
In New Zealand children and youths holding signs with slogans such as “Don’t be a fossil fool,’’ “Create solution not pollution” and “Enough talk, action now!”.
They came together at more than 30 events in cities and towns from Kerikeri in the far North to Invercargill in the South.
Eleven-year old, Zazie-Rea Taylor told the more than 2,000 people gathered outside parliament in Wellington that she wasn’t at the protest to skip school, but because her future depended on action.
“I would prefer that science and technology were used to save the planet rather than exploit it,” she said.
Climate change minister, James Shaw, addressed the students sporting a black eye in his first public appearance after being attacked on his way to work on Thursday.
“Why is it that four years after the Paris agreement you still feel you have to be here to fight for your future,” he asked.
“Because politicians have been talking about climate change for 30 years. It is time for the talking to stop and time for the action to start,” Shaw said.
The Wellington government is committed to passing climate change legislation that will set New Zealand on the path to being carbon neutral by 2050 this year, Shaw said.
Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern met young protesters in New Plymouth, 250 kilometres North of Wellington.
“My message is simple, we hear you and we’re getting on with setting a path for carbon neutrality,” she told the about 200 students.
“Please keep bringing as many people as you can with you, because we simply won’t achieve our goals alone,” the prime minister added.
Hundreds of pupils also gathered in Cairns, a city near the Great Barrier Reef, to kick off the school strike for climate action in Australia.
The global protest is taking place in 56 cities and towns across the country with “50 to 60 thousand students walking out of their classes today,” Emma Demarchi, one of the organisers in Melbourne, said.
“I did not sleep very well. I was too excited … I decided to skip school today because I care about our future.
“What is the use of school if there is no planet for us to live in?” the 16-year-old said.
Demarchi said Australian pupils’ three main demands were: “100 per cent renewable (energy) by 2030, no new fossil fuel projects, and to stop the planned Adani coal mine in Queensland.”
The Australian and New Zealand pupils are the first to protest as part of 1,600 events in more than 100 countries.
“We are the ones who will inherit this earth,” School Strike 4 Climate NZ national Coordinator, Sophie Handford, aged 18, said.
“We deserve to have a say about the kind of future we have, which at this stage could be non-existent unless we stand up and show the politicians how important this is to us.”
The international youth movement, which demands politicians do more to tackle climate change and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, was spawned by Swedish pupil Greta Thunberg.
The 16-year-old in August started weekly protests in Stockholm calling for climate action, which gained momentum and morphed into the Fridays For Future movement.
She has since addressed world leaders at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland’s Davos and at the UN’s climate conference in Katowice in Poland.
Similarly, Swedish teen environmental campaigner Thunberg joined scores of young students outside the Swedish parliament on Friday as part of a global wave of school strikes urging action to tackle climate change.
One of the banners held by students in Stockholm read: “You can’t bribe the climate”, was adorned with coins and a 20-kronor bill.
The strikes, inspired by Thunberg, were planned in more than 2,000 cities and towns in 123 countries, organisers said.
She wrote tweeted on Friday: “Latest update say: 2,052 places in 123 countries on all continents, including Antarctica. So, the question is: What will you do on March 15 2019?”
Thunberg also gave television and radio interviews at the protest, saying she felt “very excited” about the day.
“They are not even scraping on the surface, I don’t what they are doing, they are wasting time,” Thunberg said of her impressions after meeting leading politicians at venues like the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
“A start would be that they start telling it as it is, and what needs to be done, how much emissions have to be reduced,” the 16-year-old added.
Asked if adults should strike too, she replied: “It’s up to them, if they want their kids to have a future.”
Reflecting on the global protests, she said: “The movement was there before. I just showed a way how to make your voice heard.” (dpa/NAN)