Young people around the world are skipping school on Friday to march through the streets, kicking off a global day of student protests aiming to drive world leaders into action on climate change.
Classrooms in capitals from Lagos to London are expected to be empty, as the ambitious organisers of the international student strike hoped to stage 1,000 demonstrations in more than 100 countries.
George Bond, a student protester in London who travelled several hours to demonstrate outside the British Parliament, told Al Jazeera it was “imperative that young people are able to break the cycle of inaction that directly threatens the security of their future on this planet”.
“There is not sufficient and effective policy to keep the UK’s carbon targets below where they need to be,” he said. “And equally they are not following the advice of the [United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] IPCC report that says we only have 12 years left for climate justice to be realistic.”
Students flooded into the streets of Wellington, Sydney, Bangkok and Hong Kong carrying placards that read “There is no planet B”, “You’re destroying our future” and “If you don’t act like adults, we will.”
In New Delhi, one of the world’s most polluted cities, about 200 students took part in a colourful protest, juggling, waving ribbons and performing stunts with hoops.
“We have to make a choice whether we want to sit and be indifferent or do something for our planet,” said 16-year-old student Srijani Datta, who also issued a warning to the world’s politicians.
“Most of us are 16 to 17, and we are going to turn 18 soon. We are going to be eligible for voting. As voters, we will show we care about climate change. If you can’t give us that [fresh air and water], you will not get our votes.”
In Sydney, 18-year-old Charles Rickwood warned that if nothing is done, Australia’s famous Great Barrier Reef could be destroyed.
“Especially if current trends in the environment continue, we’ll see the one- or two-degree increase in our ocean, then it will simply become unsustainable and we could lose the entire Great Barrier Reef,” he told the AFP news agency.
In South Korea, demonstrations only began once lessons finished for the day.
“It’s hard for students to skip school in order to participate in this climate strike,” said organiser Jeong Juwon, 25.
“In South Korea, exam results are very important and it’s a big burden, and also the unemployment crisis is at its worst.”
In Hong Kong, activists dressed up as polar bears and sharks to highlight the damage done to the environment by climate change.
“The main thing we want people to realise is that we are not only asking the Hong Kong government to do more, it is also people themselves who need to do more,” said Zara Campion, 17, co-organiser of the strike.
The worldwide protests were inspired by Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg, who camped out in front of parliament in Stockholm last year to demand action from world leaders on global warming.
“We are only seeing the beginning,” tweeted Thunberg, who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her activism.
However, the demonstrations attracted mixed reactions from politicians.
In Australia, Education Minister Dan Tehan said the strike was “not something that we should encourage”.
“We hear you and we’re getting on with setting a path for carbon neutrality,” the 38-year-old leader said in a statement.
“Please keep bringing as many people as you can with you because we simply won’t achieve our goals alone.”
Despite 30 years of warnings about dire impacts, carbon dioxide emissions hit record levels in 2017 and again last year.
Loading the atmosphere with greenhouse gases at current rates, scientists say, will eventually lead to an uninhabitable planet.
The Paris treaty calls for capping global warming at “well below” two degrees Celsius. The planet is currently on track to heat up by double that figure.
The UN’s climate science panel warned in October that only a wholesale transformation of the global economy and consumer habits could forestall a catastrophe.