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Tuesday 20th March 2018

Amnesty International Endorses Student Climate Strike and Criticises "Misguided" Politicians


Benjamin Schmidt

Thu, 14 Mar 2019 09:38 GMT

Amnesty International has thrown its support behind the school strike for climate campaign, a growing international movement by students demonstrating during school hours to demand stricter measures against climate change.

"Amnesty International stands with all children and young people who are organising and taking part in school strikes for climate action," said Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International's Secretary General, in a statement published on March 13th, 2019.

The support voiced by Amnesty International contradicts the criticisms made by several prominent politicians, including UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who have told students they should stop sacrificing school-time to take part in the strikes.

"It is unfortunate that children have to sacrifice days of learning in school to demand that adults do the right thing," Naidoo said. "Instead of criticising young people for taking part in these protests, like some misguided politicians have done, we should be asking why governments are getting away with playing truant on climate action." 

The statement comes just two days before a planned school strike on March 15th in which tens of thousands of students from over 40 countries are expected to participate. Amnesty International wrote that it "welcomes a global day of school strikes against climate change" planned to occur this Friday. 

With a single step

The global strike is the latest in a series of school strikes that find their inspiration from 16-year-old Swedish student, Greta Thunberg. In August 2018, Ms Thunberg began skipping classes every Friday to sit outside the Swedish parliament holding a sign saying "school strike for the climate". In interviews, she said she would continue to strike every Friday until Sweden changed its policies to align with the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. 

Ms Thunberg's one-student strike was quick to draw attention. By November 2018, tens of thousands of students across Europe, Australia, Canada, and the United States were staging strikes from school demanding climate action.  

"I don't think I have started a movement," Thunberg told a Reuters reporter in March. "I did an action...[that showed] a method you can use to make your voice heard."

The success of Thunberg's method has been displayed in recent marches in The Hague, Netherlands, and Davos, Switzerland, each attracting between 10,000 and 20,000 student demonstrators.  

Off track

Many governments committed to some of the measures demanded by students when they signed the Paris Agreement. Yet, as Amnesty International points out, these pledges are "inadequate" and most have yet to be implemented.

A March 13th email sent out by the Economist Intelligence Unit laments, "Despite the 2015 Paris agreement, most countries' climate policies show a chronic lack of ambition and the world remains on track for temperature increases of 3°C, or more" by 2100. 

A 3-degree rise is much higher than the 2-degree limit agreed to in Paris. It is also double the 1.5-degree rise that climate scientists say marks the beginning of the most catastrophic global climate conditions.

Amnesty International praised the student strikers for taking these climate risks seriously. "Young people are putting their leaders to shame with the passion and determination they are showing to fight this crucial battle now," said Naidoo.  

Tomorrow's leaders

As the youngest members of society, school children are also the group most likely to be harmed during their lifetimes by the climate dangers foretold by scientists. "Children are often told they are 'tomorrow's leaders'," Naidoo said. "But if they wait until 'tomorrow' there may not be a future in which to lead."

Amnesty International is not the only group showing solidarity with the student protesters. On February 7th, a group of 350 Dutch academics and scientists published an open letter supporting the students. "On the basis of the facts supplied by climate science, the campaigners are right," the letter said. "That is why we, as scientists, support them." 

On February 13th a similar letter signed by 224 academics was published by The Guardian. "The scientific evidence of climate change is clear," the authors wrote, citing the record-breaking heat wave in Europe in 2018, the rapid loss of sea ice in the arctic that threatens coasts with higher sea levels, and a deficit in soil moisture across northern Europe. "We cannot nurture our children without Nature," the letter added. 

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