Letter on student strikes over climate

A letter published in the Western Morning News and Western Daily Press in response to the strikes by students to protest over government inaction over climate (13th February 2019).

This Friday school children and university students across the region will take part in a mass “strike” to protest over government inaction on climate change. Young people are taking a stand for the future of a planet they will inherit.

The report from IPCC climate scientists last November made clear the need for urgent and radical action to prevent climate breakdown. They suggested we have a window of just 12 years in which to take the necessary measures to prevent the global temperature exceeding 1.5oC of warming. Surpassing this limit is likely to lead to serious problems for health, wellbeing and food supply. It could leave parts of the world uninhabitable and have catastrophic impacts on many species. All this led Sir David Attenborough to warn: “If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”

There is another reason to welcome this action by students. The government has diluted citizenship education in recent years, though many schools are going beyond the curriculum and encouraging active citizenship and political engagement. Enabling young people to take part in Friday’s action would seem to be a great opportunity to cultivate this.

Far from being disengaged, many young people do care passionately about our planet and the welfare of our neighbours across the world. They deserve our unreserved support and I hope that, rather than punishing students who take part, head teachers encourage them to share their experiences of active citizenship with their peers.

Molly Scott Cato MEP
European Parliament