Youth Climate Movement Grows As UK Students Skip School to Protest Inaction

Youth activists at a climate rally in London on February 15, 2019.

Youth activists at a climate rally in London on February 15, 2019. Stefan Rousseau/PA

Tens of thousands of students in the United Kingdom skipped school Friday to protest climate inaction. The mass demonstration took place in an estimated 60 cities and towns across the country, and is the latest in a youth-led climate movement that has swept across Europe in recent months.

“We have 12 years before this becomes an international disaster,” Maia Willis-Reddick, a 17-year-old student at Methodist College in Belfast, told The Guardian, referring to findings from a recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. “Before those 12 years [are up], we need drastic action to take place in order to reduce carbon emissions for the entirety of the UK, the entirety of the world.”

The Youth Strike 4 Climate protest attracted students from preschool age to college, as well as parents and local and national officials. Former Labor Party leader Ed Milliband went to the rally in London’s Parliament Square with his nine-year-old son, telling The Guardian it’s “inspirational to see these young people today - the older generation has failed them and now needs to step up.”

Before today’s protests in England, youth activists organized large-scale demonstrations in Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, and Australia. The movement was inspired by 15-year-old Greta Thunberg of Sweden, who started doing weekly sit-ins outside of her country’s Parliament building in September to raise awareness of climate inaction.

A global school walkout, involving students from more than 40 countries, is scheduled for March 15, CNN reported.