Government leaders around the world will be hard-pressed to tune out the unprecedented youth-led climate strikes taking place Friday to demand nations take more aggressive action in curbing carbon emissions.
More than a million protesters are expected to take to the streets in more than 150 countries today as young people urge politicians to take climate change seriously and implement policies aimed at keeping global warming to a maximum of 1.5 degrees.
The flagship event is taking place in New York City, where 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg is leading thousands of young people in a demonstration and march three days before world leaders gather there to attend the United Nations Climate Action Summit on Monday.
Other protests are taking place in such cities as Canberra, London, Berlin, Johannesburg, Nairobi and Kabul.
In some regions, children were officially given the day off school to attend the strikes; the New York City public school board gave permission to 1.1 million public school students to skip school to join that city’s protest, one of more than 800 events happening in the U.S. alone.
Things were quieter Friday in Canada, which will see most of its major climate strikes take place on Sept. 27 in cities such as Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, where Thunberg will be in attendance. More than 100 events are planned across Canada that day.
The strikes began in Australia, where organizers estimated more than 300,000 protesters took to the streets in more than 100 cities, including Sydney and the capital Canberra. Demonstrators called for their country, the world’s largest exporter of coal and liquid natural gas, to take more drastic action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“Even though we ourselves aren’t sick, the planet which we live on is, and we are protesting and fighting for it,” Siobhan Sutton, a 15-year-old student at Perth Modern School, told The Associated Press.
In the U.K., thousands of young people protested in cities big and small, including Cardiff, Manchester, Glasgow and London.
An estimated 100,000 people rallied at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate just as German politicians hammered out a new package of plans to limit that country’s carbon emissions.
In the Afghan capital, Kabul, an armored personnel carrier was deployed to protect about 100 young people as they marched, led by a group of several young women carrying a banner emblazoned with “Fridays for Future.”
Fardeen Barakzai, one of the organizers and head of the local climate activist group, Oxygen, said “we want to do our part. We as the youth of our country know the problem of climate change. We know war can kill a group of people. . . . The problem in Afghanistan is our leaders are fighting for power but the real power is in nature.”
Thunberg started the “Fridays for Future” movement last August when she began to skip school to protest inaction on climate change in front of the Swedish parliament. Since then, Thunberg has become the voice of a generation that will be forced to deal with the effects of ever-increasing carbon emissions and temperatures unless drastic measures are taken now.
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On Wednesday, Thunberg addressed the U.S. Congress imploring lawmakers to “unite behind the science” and “take real action.”
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