School children and adults across Britain have today protested through town centres and cities calling for climate change to be declared an emergency.
The national protest, called ‘Youth Strike 4 Climate’, is being led by a coalition of campaigners.
More than 30 towns and cities across the country, including Norwich and Cambridge are taking part in the protest.
Hundreds of pupils gathered outside Shire Hall in Cambridge by 9.30am today.
The ages of the children ranged from at low as four years old to sixth form students.
The crowd gathered by the entrance of the building, chanting ‘Hey ho, fossil fuels have got to go’.
Students and adults held placards saying ‘Rebel for Life’, ‘Take back control of our future’, ‘We have no planet B’, and ‘Bankers bailed out by government, where’s our action climate change?’.
Numerous parents had come to march with their children.
Rachel Vanmarle, 34, had brought her son Clarence, eight, daughter Dotty, six, Pablo, aged two, and nine-month-old Sebastian.
She said: “I’ve come to teach the children how to have a voice, because we made this mess and we’re going to have to change it.
“We talked about it on the way here, about how they can get jobs that are ethical or environmentally friendly.”
Asked if she was comfortable with her children missing school, Rachel said: “It’s a half day. Learning doesn’t just take place at school and it’s the last day before half-term.
“The school has been supportive. We’re not skiving.”
Julian Gold, 54, was marching with his two daughters Alex, 13, and Sienna, aged 15.
He said: “Ever since Carl Sagan explained the greenhouse effect on Venus and said it could happen on Earth, there was some concern that fossil fuel consumption was going to be a problem.
“My children are growing up in a world where the very obvious effects of climate change are there to see and it sickens me that nothing is being done.
“I’m here to support my kids to shout at the establishment because that’s the only voice they have.
“And they actually have an inset day today.
“But it’s meant to be a protest. It’s the only voice they have. More important than anything else, it’s the only way for them to cause some pain.
“A demonstration is not a demonstration if it doesn’t cause some pain.
“But it’s infinitesimal compared to the pain climate change is going to cause the planet.”
Just before 10am, the protesters – now several hundred strong – left Shire Hall and marched towards the Guild Hall in the centre of Cambridge.
Police held up traffic as they streamed down towards the city centre, while a few students could be heard shouting ‘We’re skiving’.
Mother Kath McDonald, 46, was walking with her daughter Rowan McDonald, aged 14.
She said: “I brought my daughter. This was important 30 years ago when I was her age.
“I wanted to do something then, so I thought I would encourage her. I’m actually surprised at how many people are here.”
Rowan, who attends Witchford Village College near Ely, Cambs., said: “I support the cause. I think everything needs to change.”
Kath added: “I would have encouraged her to come anyway, even if the school wasn’t doing a training day.”
As the line of protesters moved through the city towards the Guild Hall, they chanted ‘Climate change is not a lie, please don’t let our planet die’.
Once the marchers were gathered outside the city council’s building, students began giving speeches to the crowd.
One girl, who looked around 12 years old, said: “We all know Santa Claus doesn’t exist but he’s getting more attention than climate change.”
Several times, chants of ‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn’ broke out from the crowd.
Jeremy Corbyn tweeted: “Climate change is the greatest threat that we all face but it is the school kids 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. #SchoolStrike4Climate
However, Downing Street has criticised school children taking part in today’s climate change strike.
It said that while it was important for young people to engage with issues like climate change, the disruption to planned lesson time was damaging for pupils.
A No 10 spokeswoman said:
“Everybody wants young people to be engaged in the issues that affect them most so that we can build a brighter future for all of us.
“But it is important to emphasise that disruption increases teachers’ workloads and wastes lesson time that teachers have carefully prepared for.
“That time is crucial for young people, precisely so that they can develop into the top scientists, engineers and advocates we need to help tackle this problem.”
by Tommy Lumby