School climate strikers heading to Parliament to demand action on climate emergency

After a “really hard time” keeping up interest over lockdown, the School Strike for Climate movement says it’s re-gaining momentum ahead of a rally to demand action on climate change outside Parliament next week. 

Climate strike outside Parliament (file photo). Source: 1 NEWS

Co-ordinator and spokesperson Ashleigh Putt-Fallows said the protest on Tuesday would call for “100 days 4 Action” for the first 100 days of the newly sworn-in Government. 

Putt-Fallows said the School Strike movement wanted to make sure the Government’s climate emergency declaration last month wasn't just an empty promise. The group previously called on the Government to announce the emergency.

“Whenever they declare an emergency to something, you see quite quick action,” she said.

“But we’re not just seeing that [action on climate change] even though they’ve declared that it’s an emergency.”

School Strike for Climate co-ordinator Ashleigh Putt-Fallows at a 2019 climate strike in Invercargill's Civic Theatre, next to Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt. Source: Supplied

She said the Government’s commitment to electrify its vehicles and become carbon neutral by 2025 was “great”. But, there were “a whole lot of other areas” needed to lower their emissions. 

The group has compiled a list of actions, which were crowdsourced from members of the public, for the Government to act on in its first 100 days. It also continued to work alongside a number of indigenous and Pasifika climate change action groups it first partnered with in 2019

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The list includes demands for the Government to phase out the use of fossil fuels nationwide, decrease agriculture emissions and invest in climate education. 

“We realised that we were thinking from our perspective as teenagers and as school students, and not really looking at the generation below or above us. And all generations are affected by climate change,” Putt-Fallows said.

“These are all from the public which is the really cool part about these demands. They aren’t just from us.”

She said the group continued to ask for policy changes because it felt “policies [were] the easiest way to push a change”.

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"We must act with urgency," Jacinda Ardern told the house. Source: 1 NEWS

“Like plastic bags. Everybody knew that they were bad for the environment, but you didn’t see that change push through until we saw the policy come through.”

While Putt-Fallows said the group’s planned strike action was diverted online in May under Alert Level 2 restrictions, which had “pretty good” turnout given the circumstances, numbers didn’t reach the tens of thousands seen during the climate protests of 2019. 

During lockdown, the group hosted a virtual event and asked followers to draw their demands for action on climate change on signs and on their driveways with chalk. 

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The PM says said “it’s only a good thing” people are out there to “urge ambition and action”. Source: 1 NEWS

Putt-Fallows didn’t expect the “same huge crowds” on Tuesday, either. 

“I was one of the organisers during lockdown as well.

“That was a really hard time for us, because not only could we not do the main thing that we are known for, which is striking, we also had to figure out a way to navigate a space that we hadn't before, which was striking online.

“But we can see it coming back … when we have our next strike, I’m sure we'll see quite a lot more people,” she added.