February 13th, 2019
Hundreds of school students from across the country rallied before the Dáil this morning demanding that the Government takes immediate and effective climate action.
Over 350 students and their teachers led chants calling for substantive political change, with the crowd often breaking out into a looped chant urging politicians to “save our future”.
Homemade signs made by the youngsters urged politicians to up their ambition to halt rising emission and to “be green or the earth will be mean”.
The latest EPA data shows that Ireland’s emissions dropped by less than one per cent in 2017, leaving us well off track to meet our 2020 and 2030 climate targets.
The 2019 Climate Change Performance Index, released last December, singled out Ireland as the worst performing country in Europe in tackling climate change for the second year in a row.
Student climate protest February 2019 Photo; Kayle CrossonElly Walsh, a participating student from Monkstown Educate Together School, said that students want urgent change as “we’re not living up to our Paris agreement goal at all”.
“I know we’re only a small country but there are loads of small countries in the world. So if all the small countries pull together, as well as the big ones, then we can actually change Ireland,” she said.
Many teachers such as Lucy Abraham of Balinteer Educate Together National School said that their students were more than eager to participate given the lack of progress to halt rising emissions levels.
“The kids loved the idea of coming on a protest,” Ms Abraham said. “When they started to look into the statistics behind [climate change] and how Ireland is doing in terms of meeting climate targets, they genuinely were shocked.”
Politicians with a keen interest in climate action were amongst those greeting the striking students, including Green Party leader Eamon Ryan and Independent TD Clare Daly.
“The children of Ireland and the world have the most to lose if the powers that be continue to ignore the incredibly worrying signs about the way in which this planet is going, and I think that they’ve taken ownership of the issue themselves,” Ms Daly said.
Mr Ryan said that more children are engaging with the climate issue as “it’s their generation that’s going to be involved in this and have to manage this”.
“It’s being active in a sense, not just learning something in a classroom, but going out and doing something about [climate change],” Mr Ryan said.
A number of students and speakers addressed the crowd and highlighted the need for urgent action, including environmentalist and EcoEye presenter, Duncan Stewart.
“It’s your generation that needs to rise to the call and you need to engage your parents. All of you need to get your parents behind you, and we need collective action from all of you,” he said.
“For you as a young generation, I would hope that in 10 years time, that all of you will come back here and hopefully you will have a positive thing to say about what happened here today.”
The decision to hold the strike on 13 February was taken in order to match the 13th UN Sustainable Development Goal that calls for greater climate action across the world.
Several climate-themed protests and school strikes have taken place before Leinster House every week this year as part of the global Fridays for Future movement inspired by 15-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.
By Kayle Crosson
Kayle is a multimedia journalist with an interest in energy and agriculture policy and its interaction with the environment.