“We are striking because we have done our homework and they have not. I am here to say, our house is on fire… I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire.”Greta Thunberg
When then 15-year old Greta Thunberg stood outside the Swedish parliament in August 2018 holding a sign that said “School strike for the climate”, little could she have imagined that this simple act would inspire a powerful movement of young people from Accra to Zürich. Every Friday since, the Fridays for Future youth strikers have been deciding not to attend class and instead march for climate justice and action to tackle the climate crisis. On 15 March 2019, an estimated 1.4 million students in over 2,000 cities around the world protested. Their demands are clear: the world’s decision-makers are failing future generations through their inaction on climate change and need to take responsibility to solve the climate crisis.
And the movement is having an undeniable impact: in Europe, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, standing next to Greta, in February 2019 stated his intent to spend hundreds of billions of euros on climate change mitigation, amounting to a fourth of the EU budget. Countries and cities around the world have declared “climate emergencies”. In July 2019, the secretary general of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) declared Thunberg and other young climate activists as the “greatest threat” to the fossil fuel industry, acknowledging the power that young people have when speaking up and mobilising.
My organisation, Global Greengrants Fund, has been supporting youth climate movements since 2012 through our Next Generation Climate Advisory Board. We were one of the supporters of the early climate strikes back in 2015, when over 50,000 students in 100 countries decided to leave school on the first day of the 21stUnited Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris on 30 November 2015. This August, we supported the Fridays for Future summer meeting in Lausanne, an important strategy convening for the youth climate strikers.
I am excited by the powerful potential of youth to protect our planet. But I also understand that it is not fair to rest the responsibility of fixing the mistakes of older generations, including my own, on the shoulders of today’s young people. It will need all of us, everywhere, to call on political decision-makers to implement the urgent systemic changes we need to avoid climate catastrophe.
That is why, on 20 September, my colleagues from Global Greengrants Fund UK and I will be joining the Global Climate Strike, answering the call to action of the youth strikers. We will be leaving work and joining young people on the streets to demand an end to the age of fossil fuels and emergency action to avoid climate breakdown.
Wherever you are, please join us in standing shoulder to shoulder with young climate activists. Find a strike near you here, and if you are in London, why not find us and fellow EFN members and march together? Contact EFN to find out where we will be.
Young people are counting on us – let’s show them we have heard them.
Eva Rehse is Executive Director of Global Greengrants Fund UK.