Organizers of Australia’s School Strike for Climate have estimated over 300,000 students and supporters gathered on Friday to protest the government’s inaction on climate change. The strikes, which shut down city centers, were timed to occur before a key UN climate summit in New York next week. Part of the global movement, the Australian crowds were around double those of the March 2019 protests.
Australia climate strike sets the standard
Swedish student and climate activist Greta Thunberg, the inspiration behind the school strike for climate movement, tweeted that Australia was setting the standard for the massive worldwide protests.
“Incredible pictures as Australia’s gathering for the #climatestrike. This is the huge crowd building up in Sydney. Australia is setting the standard! Its bedtime in New York…so please share as many pictures as you can as the strikes move across Asia to Europe and Africa!”
Students who had left classes on the day to attend the strike were joined by thousands of people in support of the strike’s aims. Organizers claimed strikers were joined by 2,500 businesses including Atlassian, Canva, Domain and Intrepid, over 30 Australian unions and churches including the Anglican Church and Uniting Church.
The Australian school strike for climate has focused on putting pressure on the federal government in three main areas:
- No new coal, oil or gas projects.
- 100 per cent renewable energy generation and exports by 2030.
- Funding for “a just transition and job creation for all fossil fuel industry workers and communities”.
Adani coal mine focus for action
Many of the Australian protests were directed at the proposed giant Adani coal mine in the Galilee basin in Queensland, Australia. Fifteen-year-old Harriet O’Shea Carre, one of the original organizers of the Australian climate protests, took her protest to AIG, who have agreed to provide insurance for the Indian coal giant.
“Alongside hundreds of thousands of young people across Australia, I have been raising my voice and taking to the streets to stop the construction of Adani’s massive coal mine,” she said. “As children, we are going to be living in this hot world far longer than the adults who are making these decisions for us, like the executives at AIG, and we know that our future cannot be one that is powered by coal and other fossil fuels.”
Australian PM elects to not attend UN climate summit
Despite the support shown by Australians for action on climate change, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has elected not to attend the UN climate summit. This despite meeting US President Donald Trump and senior officials nearby as part of a state visit. Mr Morrison’s decision has been criticised by many Australians. They say it shows the conservative government’s support of fossil fuel projects in the country and “do-nothing” approach to the climate emergency.
However, Australian Environment Minister Sussan Ley hit back at climate protestors claiming the federal government was already concerned about the climate crisis and was taking appropriate action.
“I can assure everyone that our attention is already there,” she said in a statement. “We are taking real and coordinated global action on climate change while ensuring our economy remains strong.”
Millions strike worldwide
The climate strikes, which had started in the Asia Pacific and ended in New York — where the UN climate summit will be held — attracted an estimated four million people worldwide. Held in more than 150 countries, the protests are being described as the world’s largest-ever climate protest.
Recent figures have shown a rise in emissions despite a dire warning by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that we have less than a decade to act if we are to have any hope of keeping global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Protestors hope their actions will help influence decision-makers attending the summit to act on this information.