Young demand action on climate change

A second international student strike for the climate is set to take place on May 24 – two days before the European elections.

It comes after President Macron and his government have been heavily criticised for the lack of action on climate change, especially following his press conference at the end of the Grand Débat - a big national debate.

Although he vaguely spoke about the emergency of the situation, no concrete action is set to be taken, have noticed several environmental associations such as WWF and Greenpeace.

The president also did not mention the carbon tax – one of the reasons the gilets jaunes movement started.

Co-director of the economic researcher centre the Veblen Institute, Wojtek Kalinowski said: “Concerning the carbon tax, there are other fiscally neutral solutions that the president could have talked about. He has nothing concrete to offer because his priority is on reducing taxes and not on the climate”.

The president later announced that 150 citizens will be chosen at random to help with environmental decisions on transports and accommodation from June.

Greenpeace spokesperson Clément Sénéchal said: “There already is plenty of committees for the environment. It is always the same strategy.

“We have a government which keeps on announcing things and which keeps on doing publicity stunts without making the changes that we need to see.

“There is a gap between the good intentions and the reality”.

For Mr Kalinowski, this is a way to “avoid the topic” and drag out the debate.                        

However, the debate is growing and becoming more and more important.

Since the beginning of the year, several strikes have taken place, involving the major student movement initiated by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg – the Swedish activist who started to miss school to strike every Friday in front of the Swedish parliament to save the planet.

The rise in temperature, the importance of reducing waste and plastic use are all matters that worry the young generation.

Born in Brighton but raised in France, Lola Wainwright, 14, has joined the campaign for action. She notably made a speech in front of the pupils of her school Aretha Franklin in Marciac in the Gers.

She said: “The previous generations were not necessarily aware of the consequences of their actions but those consequences have already started appearing with the rise of the temperature.”

She added: “[Older people] don’t really care about climate change because they think it won’t affect their lifetime. They say they love their children and yet they are leaving them a broken world.”

The aim of the strikes is not only to raise awareness but to make a change. Lola who lives in the village of Bazugues (Gers) has plenty of ideas to live a more eco-friendly life.

She said: “For example, using dry toilets to save water would be very good.”

However to see a change global firms will have to cooperate. Lola thinks we could go back to the old ways, and we could use glass bottles again instead of plastic.

Louna Xicluna, 16, who helped organise a protest in Nice as part of the first international student strike on March 15, said: “Companies need to respect the environment. Ecological standards should be more important and stricter and we should help local producers.”

For Greenpeace, it is also important that the government keeps its promises.

Mr Sénéchal said: “The last G7 meeting in Metz was axed on biodiversity and countries have said they will respect Paris Climate Agreement but they have to show it. They need to stop using fossil fuels so stop funding them.”

The climate emergency is now being widely talked about and student strikes have gathered worldwide support, particularly in the UK, where a new movement Extinction Rebellion gained widespread coverage through blocking important areas of London such as Parliament square and tube stations in April.

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