Northern Ireland news

Students worldwide skip class to demand action on climate

The Youth Strike 4 Climate movement in Northern Ireland out yesterday in Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell

PUPILS took to the streets in Belfast and Dublin yesterday in solidarity with schoolchildren around the world in protest against their governments' failure to take sufficient action against global warming.

They gathered at Cornmarket in Belfast city centre with placards proclaiming 'Planet Over Profit' and 'I Want You To Panic'.

In Dublin, pupils also made their way from St Stephen's Green to the gates of the Dáil, where they carried hand-made banners and posters, some of which read "There is no Planet B", "Leo try harder" and "Easy to ignore till the Earth is no more".

The demonstrations were organised by a loose coalition of pupils in schools across the country.

Kilcoskan National School pupil Sadhbh Kenny was among those taking part in the Dublin protest.

"We want to help the environment and the taoiseach isn't helping," she said. "I want him to help."

The co-ordinated `school strikes', being held from the South Pacific to the edge of the Arctic Circle, were inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who began holding solitary demonstrations outside the Swedish parliament last year.

Since then the weekly protests have snowballed from a handful of cities to hundreds, driven by social media-savvy students and dramatic headlines about the impact of climate change.

Greta, who was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, told leaders at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland this year: "I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day."

Yesterday's rallies were one of the biggest international actions yet. Protests were being held in cities in more than 100 countries including Hong Kong, New Delhi, Wellington, New Zealand and Oulo, Finland.

Scientists have warned for decades that current levels of greenhouse gas emissions are unsustainable.

In 2015, world leaders agreed in Paris to a goal of keeping the earth's global temperature rise by the end of the century well below 2C, but the world is on track for an increase of 4C, which experts say would have far-reaching consequences for life on the planet.

Changes needed to curb greenhouse gas emissions include ramping up renewable energy production, reining in over-consumption culture spreading beyond the industrialised west and changing diets, experts say.

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