STRASBOURG, France – Dozens of young activists from 20 European countries traveled to the European Parliament on Wednesday demanding action on climate change.
Around 60 students, from global movement Fridays for Future, demanded political policies to tackle global warming.
They were inspired by Greta Thunberg, a Swedish 15-year-old who carried out weekly strikes last year.
“The main things that we have been saying is that the debate with the climate experts should really get going since they have the solutions that the politicians are asking for, so instead of asking us may ask some climate experts also,” Belgian climate activist, Anuna de Wever, said at a press conference at European Parliament.
The Greens/European Free Alliance, who invited the campaigners to join the parliamentary session, had initially tried to get Thunberg to speak at the EP but the motion flopped.
“The European right-wing parties and liberals were afraid that a 16-year-old girl would give them a master class,” Florent Marcellesi, of the Spanish environmental political group Equo, told EFE.
“Climate change is an urgency and it should be for all parties, much more so than sterile debates over identity,” Marcellesi added.
The group of young people, between 10 and 26 years of age, chose not to travel to the headquarters of the EU parliament in Strasbourg by air in a bid to reduce their carbon emissions.
Most of them took a bus, with even those traveling from Spain and Sweden refusing to take a plane.
Europe has not yet taken any significant action on climate change and therefore students will continue to strike until the world is a safe place, de Wever continued.
Miguel Arias Cañete, the EU’s climate commissioner intervened at the EP session saying: “The young Europeans that are taking to the streets – and are doing so in growing numbers and in more and more cities across Europe – will be in the prime of their adult life in 2050.”
He added: “I welcome their engagement, they have the biggest stake in the fight against climate change. The actions and the words of these young Europeans are a precious spur to action now, and we have a duty to act.”
A number of the activists agreed and told EFE they were surprised at the low turnout of MEPs at the session.
Friday will mark the 13th global climate strike, and young campaigners have promoted it as the first large global demonstration against global warming.
“If you listen to the speeches that our politicians give us you really feel the sense of urgency but then if you look at their actions and it just goes away and it seems like they’ve never even heard of a climate crisis, because they are not treating it like a crisis,” de Wever said.
A chorus erupted from the 60-strong group chanting: “What do we want? Climate justice. When do we want it? Now.”