Sebastien Brion, BA Politics and International Relations
On Friday 20th of September, school students concerned about their future took to the streets in cities around the world to protest against the political inaction around climate change. Starting in Australia, and spreading to cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Mumbai, Nairobi and New York City, where the first UN Climate Youth Summit was organized. More than five thousand actions and manifestations were recorded on the first day of protesting.
The protestors demanded for immediate political action from their governments to tackle the ongoing climate crisis. They emphasised the need to stop funding fossil fuel projects, especially in the coal industry and to fully transition to renewable energies by 2030. However, as Michal Nachmany from the London School of Economics stated, ‘political systems are often short-termist in the sense that they think about the upcoming election’, thus leaving long-term challenges such as climate change on the margin of priorities.
It is the first time that so many children and young people have protested around the world, chanting slogans such as: “What do we want? Climate Justice! When do we want it? Now!” and branding banners tackling the issue with seriousness or fun. Some read “System Change not Climate Change” while others had written on them “This planet is getting hotter than my imaginary boyfriend”.
This recent mobilization of the youth around climate has been triggered by Greta Thunberg. The 16-year-old Swedish girl started skipping school in August 2018 to sit in front of her parliament with the banner: ‘school strike for climate’. What she called ‘Fridays for Future’ gained momentum as school students started joining her and organizing themselves around different countries to spread the message.
Less than a year ago, scientists warned that an increase in temperature could cause food scarcity and water shortage for hundreds of millions of people.
These actions are a response to the many warnings that scientists have made on the rapidity of climate change and the disastrous consequences if we exceed the Paris Agreement limit of +2°C. Indeed, less than a year ago, scientists warned that an increase in temperature could cause food scarcity and water shortage for hundreds of millions of people. Not to mention today’s victim of climate change due to water scarcity, exposure to toxic chemicals, and desertification of land forcing people, majorly from the ‘Global South’, to move and live in more precarious conditions. Furthermore, increasing temperatures could trigger certain phenomena such as the melting of the permafrost which would create a domino effect and drastically increase temperatures.
While these protests show that environmental issues are coming to the forefront of the youth’s political agenda, it is going to take more time for politicians to put their positions in jeopardy in order to genuinely produce change. Yet, the time we have is short and the changes we need are big.