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THOUSANDS of schoolchildren across Britain walked out of their classes today to demand immediate action against climate change.
Organisers from Youth Strike 4 Climate called for a change in the attitude towards the “ecological emergency” and demanded a reform in the national curriculum to accurately inform pupils of the climate disaster.
Protests took place in over 60 cities, according to organisers, including Brighton, Cambridge and London.
Children on Parliament Square in central London, some dressed in their school uniforms, held banners and chanted: “Change now!” and “Hey, ho, fossil fuels have got to go.”
One of the organisers, addressing the crowd said: “The responsibility has now fallen onto us.
“We will rise up and take action. If we are the future then perhaps it is a little brighter.”
Traffic in the area came to a still as protesters boarded an open top city tour bus, blocking the road and chanting “we are not moving.”
Others sat in the middle of the road causing a block for several hours and climbed onto traffic lights.
Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven said: “Young people know that their lives are going to be changed dramatically by the impacts of climate change.
“The risks that older people hope they might dodge are the problems the young will inherit.
“And the longer the young wait for action to be taken, the harder it will be for them in future.”
Prime Minister Theresa May and Education Secretary Damian Hinds, however, both criticised the young people for skipping school and causing disruptions.
Thirteen-year-old Nico said the protest was not a “chance to bunk off school,” but a push for a better future.
“It’s our future and people in our generation should be fighting [for] what we’re going to be living through,” she said.
She added the government “isn’t really prioritising the environment” and that it is “much more important than anything that’s going on now.”
Nico has petitioned her school to remove the use of disposable cutlery from its canteen.
Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said she was inspired by the young people taking action.
She said: “But I hope it can evolve so we can build on its success without the loss of time in the classroom. World leaders including our PM must listen and act.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “Climate change is the greatest threat that we all face but it is the schoolkids of today whose futures are most on the line.
“They are right to feel let down by the generation before them and it’s inspiring to see them making their voice heard today.”
In Leeds around 2,000 striking school students rallied outside the city’s town hall.
Among them was Freya Sutcliffe, a 16-year-old who attends Ripon Grammar School.
Ms Sutcliffe, who is from Middlesbrough, told the Star: “I think it is important that we take direct action for what we believe in.
“If we do not take action on climate change now time will pass, and we have only got 12 years to reduce global warming by 50 per cent. After that, global warming will carry on, and we will get even more extreme weather.
“It is the government’s responsibility to raise awareness and they are not doing that. That is why I am here today.”
Steph Luckman, a 20-year-old student from the University of Leeds, joined the rally.
She is a supporter of protest group Climate Emergency which has taken direct action nationwide including in London, blocking bridges over the Thames, to raise awareness of the dangers of global warming if governments do not act on climate change.
“I want to fight against climate change and raise awareness of the government’s inaction and failure to do anything about it,” she said.
The movement is the first action in Britain, following on from its success in Australia and European countries such as Belgium, inspired by teenage activist Greta Thunberg, who protests every Friday outside Sweden’s parliament to urge leaders to tackle climate change.
Students in Britain are demanding the government declare a climate emergency and take active steps to tackle the problem, communicate the severity of the ecological crisis to the public and reform the curriculum to make it an educational priority.
UK Student Climate Network’s Anna Taylor said: “We’re running out of time for meaningful change, and that’s why we’re seeing young people around the world rising up to hold their governments to account on their dismal climate records.
“Unless we take positive action, the future’s looking bleak for those of us that have grown up in an era defined by climate change.”
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