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Schoolchildren across UK strike over climate change

Students from the Youth Strike 4 Climate movement during a climate change protest in Brighton. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday February 15, 2019. The demonstration is one of the nationwide strikes for climate action taking place across the UK. Photo credit should read: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

Schoolchildren are taking a stand against climate change, with thousands of pupils walking out of class to demand immediate action.

Youth Strike 4 Climate movement organisers said strikes are taking place in 60 towns and cities, with youngsters carrying banners bearing slogans saying: "There is no planet B".

Other signs read: "When did the children become the adults?" and "Why should I clean my room when the world is in such a mess".

At one protest outside Cambridgeshire County Council's offices, a demonstrator led chants of "Whose future? Our future" and "Hey, ho, fossil fuels have got to go."

Jasper Giles, a six-year-old pupil at University of Cambridge Primary School, attended with his mother Alissia Roberts.

She said: "I think it's worth taking a day off school to show support for this movement, I think it's really important and it will gather momentum."

Ten-year-old Zachary Hird, a pupil at Cambridge's Newnham Croft Primary School, was at the protest with his mother Diane Hird.

He said: "We don't want climate change and people just have to change their ways as we don't want the world as it is right now.

"We just want to make people aware of it.

"We were talking about it in our class so we just came along."

Asked how he felt about missing lessons for the day, he said: "I feel climate change is more important - the world dying is a lot more bad than just, yeah."

Children also gathered in Brighton, with some waving banners refusing to take exams and calling for immediate action on climate change.

The protesters also took the cause to Westminster, descending on Parliament Square to demand change.

Dressed in their school uniforms, some broke into chants of "Save our planet" and "Now, climate justice".

Former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres voiced her support for the cause, saying the action was "moving".

She said: "It's time to heed the deeply moving voice of youth and schoolchildren, who are so worried about their future that they need to strike to make us pay attention.

"It is a sign that we are failing in our responsibility to protect them from the worsening impacts of climate change."

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: "Young people know that their lives are going to be changed dramatically by the impacts of climate change.

"The risks that older people hope they might dodge are the problems the young will inherit.

"And the longer the young wait for action to be taken, the harder it will be for them in future."

However, the strikes were not welcomed by school leaders and Education Secretary Damian Hinds, who said missing class was not the answer.

Mr Hinds said: "I want young people to be engaged in key issues affecting them and involving themselves in causes they care about.

"But let me be clear, missing class won't do a thing to help the environment; all they will do is create extra work for teachers."

But the demonstrators gained the support of Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who described their actions as a "cause for optimism in an often dark world".

The movement has already seen school strikes in Australia and European countries including Belgium, and was inspired by teenager Greta Thunberg, who protests every Friday outside Sweden's parliament to urge leaders to tackle climate change.

The strikes come in the wake of a UN report which warned that limiting global temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, beyond which climate impacts become increasingly severe, requires unprecedented action.

That includes cutting global carbon dioxide emissions by almost half within 12 years.

Students in the UK are demanding the Government declare a climate emergency and take active steps to tackle the problem, communicate the severity of the ecological crisis to the public and reform the curriculum to make it an educational priority.

Anna Taylor, of UK Student Climate Network, said: "We're running out of time for meaningful change, and that's why we're seeing young people around the world rising up to hold their governments to account on their dismal climate records.

"Unless we take positive action, the future's looking bleak for those of us that have grown up in an era defined by climate change."

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