NEWS
20/09/2019 14:17 BST | Updated 20/09/2019 15:41 BST

What Do Climate Strike Protesters Actually Want?

“We need a radical transformation."

Millions of people are taking to the streets across the world in what has been billed as the largest climate protest in history – but what are activists actually demanding?

Action to tackle climate change is the call of the day, with many participants using placards and speeches to urge governments around the world to address the climate emergency. 

An estimated 300,000 people gathered in cities around Australia, a mock gallows has blocked traffic in Berlin and hundreds of thousands of children, young people and workers are expected to strike in the UK, ahead of a climate summit at the UN next week, to urge countries to up their efforts to combat climate change.

What are the climate strike organisers’ specific demands? 

number of different groups are supporting the global action, including Greenpeace, Amnesty International and Friends of the Earth, but the protests in the UK are being led by the UK Student Climate Network.

The group’s demands are four-fold and broad:

  • DEMAND 1 – SAVE THE FUTURE. The Government declare a climate emergency and implement a Green New Deal to achieve Climate Justice. 
  • DEMAND 2 – TEACH THE FUTURE. The national curriculum is reformed to address the ecological crisis as an educational priority.
  • DEMAND 3 – TELL THE FUTURE. The Government communicate the severity of the ecological crisis and the necessity to act now to the general public.
  • DEMAND 4 – EMPOWER THE FUTURE. The Government recognise that young people have the biggest stake in our future, by incorporating youth views into policy making and bringing the voting age down to 16.

Extinction Rebellion, which is also supporting the climate strike, has similar demands:

  • Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
  • Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
  • Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

The umbrella organisation behind Friday’s global action, Global Climate Strike, links to a much more detailed manifesto that goes far beyond those outlined above.

The People’s Demands for Climate Justice calls on governments to “stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart”.

It labels nuclear energy, biomass, carbon capture and storage and geo-engineering as “false solutions” to the climate crisis, and urges world leaders to commit to policies that embrace “agro-ecological practices and food sovereignty”, “non-market approaches to climate action” and “climate solutions that recognise the traditional knowledge, practices, wisdom, and resilience of indigenous peoples and local communities”.

Other points include:

  • Reject every attempt by corporations and their proxies to insert themselves into the negotiations
  • Facilitate and support non-market approaches to climate action
  • Commit to climate reparations to those most affected but least responsible for climate change

Some commentators have suggested these aims are akin to calling for “an end to capitalism”.

Robert Colvile, Director of the Centre For Policy Studies think tank, told HuffPost UK: “The official demand is almost not about climate, it’s basically an end to capitalism, that’s what all of it amounts to.

“Yes, it says we need to tackle climate change, but it lays out an incredibly proscriptive list of ways to do that, which involve no carbon trading, no smart agriculture, no corporations, no nuclear power.”

But Aaron Kiely, Climate Campaign Lead at Friends of the Earth, told HuffPost UK that while the group does believe technological solutions will play a role, “a lot of it is unproven or hasn’t been able to deliver carbon reduction at the scale that we need”.

He adds: “We need a radical transformation of the economy to something that can deliver a fairer, greener society for everyone.

“The reality is that the neoliberal version of capitalism has absolutely failed to deal with the climate crisis, and all the solutions it’s offered up – market-based solutions, voluntary commitments and letting the private sector lead the way – have absolutely failed.”

The worldwide climate strike movement has been inspired by teenage activist Greta Thunberg’s weekly protests on Fridays outside the Swedish parliament.

Thunberg has warned political and business leaders that “our house is on fire” and they need to act like it is, and has urged them to listen to the scientists on climate change.

An authoritative assessment of the science from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last year spelled out how the impacts of climate change, from droughts to rising seas, will be less extreme if temperature rises are curbed at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels than if they
climb to 2C.

Curbing temperatures to the 1.5C target is still possible but will take “unprecedented” action, the IPCC said.

Under the international Paris Agreement secured in 2015, countries pledged to curb global temperature rises to “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to keep them to 1.5C.

But action pledged so far by governments puts the world on track to warm by almost 3C.

The UK has strengthened its legal target to cut emissions to “net zero” by 2050, following advice from its advisers the Committee on Climate Change that such a move is achievable and would have economic benefits.

The committee has also warned the government it is off target to meet its legal goals to curb emissions, and new policies and action are needed urgently to cut greenhouse gases from homes, transport and industry.

But environmental groups have called for an earlier net zero target date, for example 2045, while protesters with Extinction Rebellion have demanded it be reached as early as 2025.