Global climate strike begins with huge crowds in Australia and millions more set to take to streets worldwide

Samuel Osborne
Children holding placards as they march in Melbourne, Australia: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images

Millions of people around the world are taking to the streets in what could be the largest climate change protest in history.

British students are preparing to walk out of lessons and lectures and adults are being encouraged to join them as they strike.

Thousands have already attended demonstrations in Australia, the world’s largest exporter of coal and liquid natural gas, calling on their government to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

The protests are inspired by teenage activist Greta Thunberg, who held weekly demonstrations outside the Swedish parliament to call on world leaders to step up their efforts against climate change.

It comes ahead of a United Nations climate action summit in New York, which will bring together world leaders to discuss mitigation strategies such as transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.

The worldwide strike will culminate in New York when Greta, who has been nominated for a Nobel prize for her climate activism, will lead a rally at the UN headquarters.

The 16-year-old praised the “huge crowd” in Sydney in a tweet, which she said would set the standard as the strikes moved across Asia, Europe and Africa.

The Global Strike 4 Climate organisation said protests had been staged in 110 towns and cities across Australia, demanding government and business commit to a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

Climate change is a particularly pertinent issue for low-lying Pacific islands, which have repeatedly asked wealthier nations to do more to prevent rising sea levels.

Children in the Solomon Islands protested on the shoreline wearing traditional grass skirts and carrying wooden shields in solidarity with the global movement.

In Thailand, more than 200 young people stormed into the environment ministry and dropped to the ground feigning death as they demanded action.

No protests were authorised in China, the world’s biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, but Zheng Xiaowen of the China Youth Climate Action Network said young people there would take action in one way or another.

“Chinese youth have their own methods,” she said. “We also pay attention the climate and we are also thinking deeply, interacting, taking action, and so many people are very conscientious on this issue.”

https://twitter.com/CloverMoore/status/1174885222480920576

In the US, more than 800 events were planned on Friday, while in Germany more than 400 rallies were expected.

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, is due to address a rally of climate strikers outside parliament on Friday, while other events are being across the UK.

The UK Student Climate Network said more than 200 events would take place across the country. The network is calling on politicians to bring in a “Green New Deal” to cut Birtain’s emissions to zero and improve lives, changes to education to equip children to deal with the climate crisis and votes at 16 to give them a voice.

Among the many trade unions throwing their weight behind the strikes are the TUC Congress, the University and College Union and Unite.

http://players.brightcove.net/624246174001/default_default/index.html?videoId=5837728067001

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

Global warming caused by heat-trapping greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels has already led to droughts and heatwaves, melting glaciers, rising sea levels and floods, scientists say.

Carbon emissions climbed a record high last year, despite a warning from the UN-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in October that output of the gases must be slashed over the next 12 years to stabilise the climate.

Additional reporting by agencies

Read more

When is the Global Climate Strike and how can you take part?

Police arrest journalist wearing press pass during climate protest

Our planet is dying. The time for fairytales is over

Greta Thunberg submits climate change report to US Congress

Brexit threatens EU climate action, research warns

Greta Thunberg meets Obama and demands action from congress on climate