In what is tipped to be the largest climate change protest in history, British youngsters have taken to the streets for the Global Youth Strike 4 Climate, in solidarity with fellow protesters around the world. Sixteen-year-old activist Greta Thunberg has been praised for “inspiring a generation” after marches sprung up in cities across the globe.
More than 200 events are being held in the UK alone, including in London, Birmingham, Glasgow, Sheffield, Bristol, Canterbury, Cardiff and Oxford.
Some students have been granted the day off while others have skipped classes entirely.
But while the students have won the support of a string of celebrities, Cabinet ministers have refused to get behind their cause and warned against choosing protests over their education.
Junior Brexit minister Kwasi Kwarteng condemned the youths’ action, saying: “I am not going to endorse people leaving school because I think education, time spent in school, is incredibly important.”
Schools minister Nick Gibb said the Tory government “shares young people’s passion” for addressing climate change but said missing as little as one day of school could have a negative impact on their GCSE results.
Mr Gibb said the government does not think demonstrating “should be at the expense of a child’s education because what we want is for the next generation to be as well educated as possible to tackle these kinds of problems, and you don’t do that by missing out on an education”.
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Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would join protesters in London, where pupils, parents and teachers are marching on Westminster.
He said: “Young people and workers are coming out to say enough is enough. I’m proud to be joining London’s largest climate crisis mobilisation to demand action.”
And Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson attended the Glasgow rally and posed with youths holding signs saying “Protect Our Planet”.
She tweeted: “We demand immediate, strong action to stop irreversible damage. We must protect both our planet and future generations.”
Former Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas posted a photo of children taking part in the London event online, with the caption: “London you are beautiful.”
The Global Climate Strike movement shared pictures of protests online and urged participants on, saying: “We are unstoppable. Another world is possible.”
Waqas Tufail, a criminology professor attending the Leeds rally, told CNN: “Climate change is killing the planet, and I’m worried about the future of my children.
“We need to act now, especially governments and corporations who damage the environment the most.”
“The atmosphere is unbelievable, it’s full of young people who are demanding action. It’s inspiring to be here among students, workers, and people young and old from all walks of life.”