The Government may have backed the declaration of a national “climate and biodiversity crisis”, but it has yet to take necessary action to counter the growing threat of global heating, according to student climate strikers who are taking to the streets again on Friday.
In a statement calling for public support for their protest, the Schools' Climate Action Network (SCAN) said students across Ireland were frustrated by the continuing failure of the Government to fully back their demands.
While they could not vote yet, their action was an opportunity to have their voices heard on polling day for the local and European elections, it added.
"It's great that the Government have declared a climate emergency but saying something is not the same as doing something about it. It's just not enough – we need action," said Lillie Power (14), a student from Stepaside Educate Together Secondary School in Co Dublin.
As well as marches in cities and towns, students – including those affiliated to Fridays For Future Ireland – are organising school-based actions, with the support of teachers and parents. The largest of the lunch-time protests will be in Dublin (at Merrion Square from 1:30pm); Cork, Limerick, Wexford and Longford. Some schools, such as Newpark Comprehensive School in Co Dublin, have rescheduled exams to allow students attend.
Jonathan Browner, principal of North Wicklow Educate Together Secondary School, said: "All our first and second-year students will strike... Students have a right to strike, to make their voices heard about climate change and schools have an obligation to support them if students choose to join this global day of action."
In a similar way to global protests in March, attended by an estimated 1.6 million young people, Friday's action is being led by the first striker to leave school in pursuit of action on climate, the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg.
In her latest video posting, she urged people to “sit outside your parliament or local government building until your nation is on a safe pathway to a below 2-degree warming target”. It has been viewed by more than 2 million people
The Extinction Rebellion movement backed the protests and noted that despite large numbers protesting, governments were “still failing to act now on the climate and ecological emergency”.
The protests in Ireland have been supported by environmental and climate NGOs, and civil society organisations including SIPTU, TUI and students’ unions at third level. At a national meeting this month, the strikers explored possibilities for working with unions on common demands, such as the call for a just transition as Ireland decarbonises.
Scientists for Future Ireland
Meanwhile a researcher at UCD School of Politics and International Relations, Louise Fitzgerald, is receiving strong support for a "Scientists For Future Ireland" letter she has written expressing solidarity with the climate strikers.
"I've taken inspiration from Germany, where the Scientists For Future movement has come out in solidarity with the youth, and this has led to very interesting exchange between scientists and public on the climate issue," Ms Fitzgerald added.
Already, the letter has been backed by leading academics in climate science, biodiversity, geography, the environment and the humanities. Those who wish to add their names to the letter, she said, should email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The letter states the students’ concerns and demands “are justified and supported by the best available science”.
“Many social, technological, and nature-based solutions already exist. The young protesters rightfully demand that these solutions be used to achieve a sustainable society. Without bold and focused action, their future is in critical danger. There is no time to wait until they are in power,” it adds.
SCAN’s demands agreed in March included a call for a climate emergency declaration. Others were to end future fossil-fuel extraction; reform the education system to address the need for ecological literacy and embrace active steps to achieve climate justice.
The students also called for stronger regulation of “corporations that are causing the climate crisis” and “a transformation to reduce emissions from agriculture in Ireland”.
SCAN has reiterated its demand for a green new deal that ensures all young people in Ireland “can have livelihoods that don’t damage the Earth” after leaving school.