Global Youth Climate Strikes

April 19, 2019

In the News

On Friday, March 15, around 1.4 million young people in 123 countries went on strike from school to ask world leaders for stronger action against climate change. These historic, coordinated youth climate strikes began in August 2018 with a solitary 16-year-old Greta Thunberg sitting in front of the Swedish parliament, who was reportedly moved by the urgency of the climate crisis. The movement is supported, among others, by hundreds of academics in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, thousands of scientists have signed petitions in Britain, Finland, and Germany in support of the students.

An estimated 30,000 to 40,000 people participated in the youth climate strike in Paris. According to FRANCE 24’s environmental editor Mairead Dundas, this was the largest turnout in France for these strikes. Some student protesters blocked the headquarters of the French bank Société Générale near the capital. Laurence Tubiana, France’s former Climate Change Ambassador and Special Representative for COP21, who played a major role in negotiating and delivering the Paris climate agreement, was quoted saying, “[…] these young people are asking the leaders and decision-makers to be accountable and to do what they promised.”

The strike coincided with several other instances of climate-related collective action. On Thursday, March 14, four French NGOs filed a lawsuit against the French government, arguing that the latter has not taken action to respect its environmental obligations. Over 2.1 million people have signed a petition titled ‘L’Affaire du siècle’ (case of the century) in support of this initiative. And on Saturday, March 16, thousands of people marched in France to protest the French government’s “inaction” on climate change.

In the United States, youth climate strikes occurred in over 100 cities and were largely organized by three girls—Alexandria Villasenor (13 years old), Haven Coleman (12 years old), and Isra Hirsi (16 years old)­­—who are the co-founders of the US Youth Climate Strike movement. The strikes occurred in nearly every US state and supported the implementation of the Green New Deal, a plan proposed by several Democrats, which would see the US completely transition to renewable energy by 2030. The proposal has since failed in the Senate.

Climate change lawsuits are growing in the US. According to a recent Vox article, “So far, 14 US cities, counties, and one state have sued fossil fuel companies.” The plaintiffs accuse fossil fuel companies of contributing to global warming by selling certain products, and of improperly informing the public about the products’ harmful impact. Similarly, 21 young people have been suing the federal government since 2015­­—in a case known as Juliana v. US or Youth v. Government—for policies affecting climate change and its potential impact on younger generations.

The youth climate strikes and lawsuits are a testament to the global concern of climate change. These actions are likely to continue and spread, as the world continues to grapple with the consequences of climate change.

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