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Youth climate change protests, Belgium
Youth for climate protest in Brussels@BrunildaPali via Twitter

Over 10,000 students skip school in Belgium to protest climate change

Young people are taking matters into their own hands

Upwards of 10,000 young people skipped school again in Belgium on Thursday (January 17) to march for protection against climate change. They have vowed to continue demonstrating every week until world leaders take notice.

The school strikes first kicked off back in August as a solo protest by 15-year-old Greta Thunberg in Sweden. Since then thousands of students around the world have joined her, with school strikes having spread to at least 270 towns and cities in countries across the world in places as far-flung as Australia, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the US and Japan. 

Thunberg told the Guardian, “Since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago,” she said. “We have to understand what the older generation has dealt to us, what mess they have created that we have to clean up and live with. We have to make our voices heard.”

Previous protests took place in December, following on from disappointing conclusions at the UN climate summit in Poland which took place earlier that month. At the summit, leaders agreed rules for implementing the 2015 Paris agreement which aims to keep global warming as close to 1.5C as possible, but made little progress in increasing governments' commitments to cut emissions. Following on from the summit, civil society groups have declared outrage at leaders failure to address the urgency of climate change, and pledged to grow international protests to drive rapid action against global warming. 

May Boeve, the executive director of the climate change campaign group, told the Guardian: “Hope now rests on the shoulders of the many people who are rising to take action: the inspiring children who started an unprecedented wave of strikes in schools to support a fossil-free future; the 1,000-plus institutions that committed to pull their money out of coal, oil, and gas, and the many communities worldwide who keep resisting fossil fuel development.”

Protests calling for more action against climate change have been amping up in the last few months – in November, we reported on the huge protest organised by Exitinction Rebellion. Over 80 activists were arrested on the day. “I’ll protest again. Unless we want Malibu-scale fires, Yemen-scale starvation and escalations of the far-right in every town and country, there is simply no choice,” one demonstrator told Dazed. Creative movements have also been rallying against climate changeOlafur Eliasson’s major piece of outdoor public art in London brought ice blocks sourced from the waters of the Nuup Kangerlua fjord in Greenland to outside the Tate Modern and in another locations, in a visual call-to-arms.