Caritas staff in solidarity with thousands of ‘climate strikers’ who marched from Wellington’s Civic Square to Parliament Grounds calling for stronger action on climate change. Photo: WelCom
Thousands of New Zealanders of all ages took to the streets in more than 40 centres throughout the country on Friday 27 September, in solidarity to call for more action on climate change. School and tertiary students, who began the strikes in March and May this year, were joined side-by-side by parents, grandparents, businesses, people from the workforce, retirees, priests, religious and other community members and individuals in the country’s largest climate ‘strike’.
The school strikers want the Government to listen and agree on their five core demands. They want the Government to declare a ‘climate emergency’ and cross-party support for the Zero Carbon Act; an end of all exploration and extraction of fossil fuels; investment in building a renewable and regenerative economy; support for the Pacific Islands; and for the Government to do everything it can to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees and ‘safeguard their right to a future on Earth’.
The ‘strikes’ have taken inspiration from 16-year-old Swedish climate activist and schoolgirl Greta Thunberg who is on a global mission to fight for ‘climate justice’ and is inspiring millions of others to make a difference. Earlier in the week, Thunberg delivered a speech to the UN Climate Action Summit in New York, in which she ‘demanded’ immediate action from world leaders and assemblies for what she describes as the ‘climate crisis’ (www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAJsdgTPJpU).
Cardinal John Dew posted on his Facebook page, ‘Once again on Friday, young people are leading action for more substantial change by the international community on climate change. In a message to the UN Climate Summit Pope Francis said: “With honesty, responsibility and courage we have to put our intelligence at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral, capable of placing economy at the service of the human person, building peace and protecting the environment.” Our young people understand his message and that of many others, that “the earth is not a possession to be squandered, but an inheritance to be handed down”. We owe young people “real answers, not empty words, actions or illusions”. ‒ Message for World Day of Creation.
Francis: Act on climate change
The international community must ramp up its efforts if it expects to mitigate the negative effects of climate change, Pope Francis said in a video message sent to participants at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York, 23 September 2019.
While the 2015 Paris climate agreement raised awareness and the ‘need for a collective response’, the commitments made by countries ‘are still very weak and are far from achieving the objectives set. It is necessary to ask whether there is a real political will to allocate greater human, financial and technological resources to mitigate the negative effects of climate change and to help the poorest and most vulnerable populations, who suffer the most.’
According to its website, the goal of the UN Climate Action Summit is to ‘ensure the global focus on climate gains momentum’ as well as to make sure ‘there is scrutiny on the investments countries are making in fossil fuels versus renewables.’
Calling climate change ‘one of the most serious and worrying phenomena of our time’, the Pope said states have a duty to fight against it and despite the weak response, a ‘window of opportunity is still open. Let us not let it close. Let us open it with our determination to cultivate integral human development, to ensure a better life for future generations. It is their future, not ours,’ the Pope said.