“Our house is on fire – let’s act like it”
Over the next two weeks, millions will walk out of their schools, out of their workplaces, and out of their day-to-day lives to join climate strikers across the world in a global demand for climate justice and an end to the age of fossil fuels.
The momentum of the Youth Climate Strike can be traced to the immeasurable actions of 16-year-old climate leader @GretaThunberg. If you haven’t heard of Greta, you will this week. Greta and her sign that reads “Skolstrejk för klimatet” (“School strike for the climate”) has become a global symbol for youth action for climate justice and a massive economic and political shift from a world dependent on fossil fuels.
This Swedish teenager began a school strike and movement, known as Fridays for Future, that has grown from one young woman walkout out of her classroom on August 20th, 2018, to a movement of over 100,000 school children. This Friday, millions are expected to join Greta and strike. She will be leading the protests outside of U.N. Headquarters in New York City this Friday.
“What we should do as individuals is to use the power of democracy to make our voices heard and to make sure that the people in power cannot continue to ignore this.” – @GretaThunberg on The Daily Show on September 14th.
The Global Youth Climate Strikes coincides with the UN Climate Action Summit, which is taking place the week of September 23rd at the UN Headquarters in New York City. After students across the world walk out of class on Friday to highlight the urgency of climate change, state leaders will convene in NYC to “mobilize political and economic energy at the highest levels to advance climate action that will enable implementation of many of the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
UN Secretary-General António Guterres is “calling on all leaders to come . . . with concrete, realistic plans to enhance their nationally determined contributions by 2020, in line with reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent over the next decade, and to net zero emissions by 2050.”
The week-long Climate Summit kicks off with the first-ever UN Youth Climate Summit on September 21st, which is set to “showcase the successes of youth activists, local change-makers, innovators and entrepreneurs, and empower the next generation of leaders to take action.”
The UN 2019 Climate Summit will convene under the theme “A Race We Can Win. A Race We Must Win.” The Youth Climate Walkout and associated rallies across the country will set the stage as global leaders convene to discuss their plans to address climate change. Will the voice of millions of our world’s youth be enough to motivate these leaders to commit to significant reductions in green-house gas emissions and sustainable development plans?
During the Climate Summit, Secretary-General António Guterres is not just asking for plans that address mitigation alone (i.e. strategies aiming to reduce human emissions of green-house gases). Rather, the Secretary-General wants plans that will “show the way toward a full transformation of economies in line with sustainable development goals.”
The Climate Summit is an opportunity for member countries to innovate practical initiatives and increase global commitments to GHG emissions reductions. Luis Alfonso de Alba, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the UN 2019 Climate Summit, said that the existing Paris Agreement NDC commitments are a “floor rather than ceiling” and has urged the world to look forward. The goal of the Climate Action Summit is to produce a road map for the next 20 years with a plan to limit global average temperature rise well below 1.5 °C.
The outcomes of this Climate Summit will feed into the UNFCCC process – this year COP 25 will convene in Santiago, Chile in December. As of right now, even if all commitments made under the Paris Agreement are achieved, the goal to limit warming to 2°C will not be reached. Rather, the world will be on course to warm by more than 3°C by the end of the century. Thus, it is vital that the global public “bring up the heat” and hold our world leaders accountable by calling for significant reductions in GHG emissions, climate justice and concrete sustainable development plans.
The Global Climate Strike has taken root in Vermont as well. Vermonters have created a broad coalition, led by the state’s youth, to organize a plethora of events and political actions across the state. The Vermont Strike Coalition has made the following demands:
- Comprehensive and immediate solutions rooted in the respect for and dignity of all people.
- Support for just policies that transition rapidly to a clean and renewable energy economy for all.
- A commitment to keeping fossil fuels in the ground.
- A just and inclusive movement that centers frontline communities.
Grassroots organizations, schools, and businesses have joined in the efforts to facilitate statewide action this Friday, September 20th. Youth in Vermont, following Greta’s example, are no longer standing idly by while the polluters of the world determine their future. Rather, Vermont’s youth are taking control of their own futures and demanding change. It is a call not just to engage their peers, but also to put pressure on adults to take action, disrupt business as usual, and make real progress to protect our world for current and future generations.
Want to Join the Strike? Check out the following sources to find an event near you!