Scientists tell Belgian school kids on climate strike: ‘You’re right!’

People take part in a march called 'Rise for Climate' in Brussels, Belgium, 27 January 2019. [EPA-EFE/STEPHANIE LECOCQ]

More than 3,000 scientists have given their backing to thousands of Belgian school children who took to the streets for the fourth week in a row on Thursday (30 January), asking for more to be done to better climate policy.

“I’ll do my homework when you do yours”.

The placard brandished by this primary school kid in Belgium’s Wallonia region captures the essence of a movement that has been gaining momentum across the country over the past weeks.

The school strikes are part of a wider movement which has mobilised thousands of pupils across Belgium, including 12,500 who marched in Brussels on Thursday (31 January) in protest against inaction on climate change. Thousands more also demonstrated in the Flemish city of Leuven and in Liège, Wallonia.

It’s the fourth week in a row that students have skipped school to join the climate strike. And they are determined not to stop there.

“We will continue until we’re sure we’ve been heard,” said Adélaïde Charlier, one of the coordinators of Youth4Climate, the grassroots organisation behind the march.

“It’s not just about young people’s ideas anymore, anyone can post their suggestions,” she told Le Soir newspaper, inviting people to contribute ideas to reduce carbon emissions on their brand new online platform available in French, Dutch and English.

Broad protests started across Belgium on 2 December with a “Claim the Climate” march, when over 65,000 demonstrators called for Belgian and European leaders to adopt ambitious climate policies in line with goals set by the Paris Agreement in 2015.

They were around 35,000 marching in Brussels last week.

In Brussels, students skip school for mass global warming protest

Thousands of Belgian school children skipped classes on Thursday (24 January) to flood Brussels in an unprecedented protest against global warming and pollution, vowing to miss school once a week until the government takes action.

3,000 scientists sign open letter

On Thursday, a group of more than 3,000 Belgian scientists signed an open letter in support of the movement. According to the signatories, the school kids are simply right.

“As scientists, and on the basis of scientific facts, we declare: the climate activists are right!”

The notion that climate change will fundamentally alter living conditions on the planet “is not doomsaying, but is based on hard facts,” the scientists write, referring to the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

And although individual people can take measures of their own – eating less meat or cutting air travel, for instance – more decisive action is needed on a collective level, they argue.

“Current policy measures fall far short of what is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. CO2 emissions are still increasing worldwide – so we are not emitting less, but more and more every year.”

“it is now the time to take far-reaching, structural measures to quickly and drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees, and preferably to 1.5 degrees,” they said.

Tens of thousands protest in France, Belgium over climate crisis

Tens of thousands of people marched across France and in Belgium on Sunday (27 January) to protest the lack of state action to halt climate change.

EU taking note

Politicians at an EU level are also taking note.

“The climate marches that have been taking place over the last months have highlighted that the fight against climate change, and the adoption by the EU of measures to tackle this global challenge, are key concerns for the vast majority of citizens,” said EU climate commissioner, Miguel Arias Cañete.

According to the Spaniard, climate change could become a key campaign theme in the coming European elections, scheduled on 26 May. “I am convinced that discussions on EU climate policy will not be relegated,” Cañete told EURACTIV in an interview.

Cañete: ‘No way around it’, climate neutral EU is needed

EU climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete is in no doubt that the EU has to achieve ‘climate neutrality’ by 2050 and wants to use his final months in the job to push the bloc towards Paris Agreement-compliance.

Going global

The movement is now also turning global. School strikes have spread to at least 270 cities in countries across the world, including Australia, the UK, Switzerland, Germany, the US, Canada and Japan.

In Britain, a UK-wide student strike has been called on Friday 15 February to ask for more decisive action against climate change. A global strike will follow on Friday 15 March.

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