School-strikers inspire governments to declare a climate emergency

If you were ever in doubt that the hundreds of thousands of school-striking students around the globe would make in an impact, they already have. By the sound of how political leaders in the United Kingdom, Scotland and Wales are talking to their members of parliaments, the school-strike movement is changing history.

It has been happening in council chambers again and again over the last six months: Before a motion to declare a climate emergency would be up for a vote among councillors, local teenagers from schools in the city would be making impassioned speeches about what this issue means for them. They have visibly touched and influenced the decision-making in councils, and today, more than 500 councils in five countries have declared a climate emergency.

This week, the decision-making for the first time moved another step upwards: from the local to the national government level, and in three different governments over the same week.

When Jeremy Corbyn, leader of UK Labour party, spoke in the Parliament on Wednesday 1 May 2019 to ask the members of the House to support a motion declaring an environment and climate emergency as the first government in the world, he started the speech with describing how the students had impressed him:

“A few weeks ago, like many other Members on both sides of the House, I was deeply moved to see the streets outside Parliament filled with colour and the noise of children chanting ‘Our planet, our future’. For someone of my generation, it was inspiring but also humbling that children felt that they had to leave school to teach us adults a lesson. The truth is that they are ahead of the politicians on this, the most important issue of our time.”

Transcript of speech | Video recording | Audio | More info

On Sunday 28 April 2019, as the first government in the world, First Minister of the Scottish government Nicola Sturgeon declared a climate emergency at the annual Scottish National Party conference, and here’s how she explained it:

“A few weeks ago, I met some of the young climate change campaigners who’ve gone on strike from school to raise awareness of their cause. They want governments around the world to declare a climate emergency. They say that’s what the science tells us. And they are right. So today, as First Minister of Scotland, I am declaring that there is a climate emergency. And Scotland will live up to our responsibility to tackle it.”

Video recording (where the statement starts at 24 min) | Audio | More info

“When people look back at this moment, it won’t be those blockading bridges or striking from school that history will judge severely. It will be those who shut their eyes and blocked their ears to the scale of the challenge.

So I really welcome and pay tribute to the work of Extinction Rebellion and the youth climate strike, because they have already made a difference. I assume numbers in the chamber today are testament to that.”
~ Caroline Lucas MP, speaking to the Environment and Climate Change Debate in UK Parliament on 1 May 2019

Extinction Rebellion has played a big part in this development just as well, but since Friday 3 May is declared a national school strike day in Australia, and strikers are gathering at city halls and MP’s offices at 75 different locations in Australia this day, they deserve a bit of focus and extra praise for their efforts.


Zelly Been wrote on Facebook:


** Write letters to local politicians and councillors (templates in comments)

** Attend mass Strike rallies

** Organise local Strikes at Politicians’ office/ council/ corporate nasty

** Register to vote and vote for any Climate Emergency Action


** Make sure school is buying 100% renewable energy

** Get off Gas – get gas out of schools

** Bring in zero emissions transport. Get students and teachers to commit to a plan for zero emissions transport ( including campaigns for needed infrastructure like bike parking, additional safety crossings & zero emissions public transport)

** Get meat out of the canteen

** Make zero emissions purchases – audit purchases & ensure your school to buying high emissions products like paper from old growth or native forests.


** Get your school making its own biochar & put in gardens.

** Plant some trees


** Get food gardens happening so kids learn to grow their own food.

** Plant trees to create shade to reduce deaths (native animals & insects) and reduce impact of heat Island effects.

** Audit school to ensure best prepared for extreme weather, floods & fire. Lobby for additional facilities & required facilities improvements

** Build community care networks (older kids)


** Get the kids to take all these ideas home and do with family & friends and share with extracurricular activities like sporting clubs etc.




UK Parliament passes climate emergency motion

On 1 May 2019, the British Labour party moved a non-binding motion in the House of Commons to declare ‘an environment and climate emergency’, which was passed by members of the Parliament across the floor.

The debate in Parliament starts at 09:35 minutes in the video above.

→ UK Parliament: Original Youtube live-stream  |  Hansard transcript

→ Extinction Rebellion: 37-minute video excerpt on Youtube


Bipartisan spirit
Conservative’s environment secretary Michael Gove acknowledged MPs face a climate “emergency” and invoked the bipartisan spirit that helped Britain through the world wars of the 20th century, saying: “We’ve led in the past in defence of freedom, let’s lead now in defence of our planet.”

According to news reporters, the Conservative MPs had been told by their leader Theresa May not to oppose the motion.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said climate change should be treated like a war-time emergency. She intervened in Gove’s speech to ask how that approach could be reconciled with the government’s decision to back a third runway at Heathrow airport. Gove did not reply, prompting shouts from MPs of “Answer the question.”

“Though symbolic, the vote recognises the urgency needed to combat the climate crisis and will be seen as a victory for protests launched by the Extinction Rebellion strikers in recent weeks,” commented Sky News.

Labour tweeted on the day to be “the first major political party declaring a climate emergency at the national level anywhere in the world”, though both the Scottish National Party and Party of Wales had declared a climate emergency in their respective countries – Scotland four days earlier, Wales on the same day.


Content of the motion

Labour’s motion calls on the government to aim to achieve net-zero emissions “around 2050” and for ministers to outline urgent proposals to deliver a “zero waste economy” within the next six months.

‘That this House declares an environment and climate emergency following the finding of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change that to avoid a more than 1.5°C rise in global warming, global emissions would need to fall by around 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching net zero by around 2050;

recognises the devastating impact that volatile and extreme weather will have on UK food production, water availability, public health and through flooding and wildfire damage;

notes that the UK is currently missing almost all of its biodiversity targets, with an alarming trend in species decline, and that cuts of 50 per cent to the funding of Natural England are counterproductive to tackling those problems;

calls on the Government to increase the ambition of the UK’s climate change targets under the Climate Change Act 2008 to achieve net zero emissions before 2050, to increase support for and set ambitious, short-term targets for the roll-out of renewable and low carbon energy and transport, and to move swiftly to capture economic opportunities and green jobs in the low carbon economy while managing risks for workers and communities currently reliant on carbon intensive sectors;

and further calls on the Government to lay before the House within the next six months urgent proposals to restore the UK’s natural environment and to deliver a circular, zero waste economy.’

Jeremy Corbyn: Green Industrial Revolution

On 1 May 2019, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn posted a video statement on Twitter, which was viewed 70,000 times in just six hours.

“Labour has just forced parliament to declare a climate emergency. Now it’s time to get organising in our communities. In government, we’ll tackle climate change by investing in renewable industries. We’ll reprogramme our economy so that it works for people, communities and our precious planet. But we can’t just wait until we’re in government, we’re kick starting our Green Industrial Revolution now. We’re going to travel the country, putting your ideas at the heart of our plans.

Starting in Scarborough, where Rebecca Long-Bailey will speak with construction and manufacturing workers about what training is needed to build offshore wind turbines. Local people will tell us about the bus routes they’ll need restored, to help them get to work. And we’ll speak with housing groups, residents and business owners to determine how our plan for green jobs can work for their local economy.

The Green Industrial Revolution will fight climate change and bring good, secure jobs to areas across the country. But it won’t be imposed top down, it will be for the many, by the many.”
~ Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party in UK


“Real politics comes from the ground up, and that’s what today has shown. An emergency does not have to be a catastrophe – we now need a Green Industrial Revolution that will reprogramme our economy.”
~ Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party in UK

UK Labour tweeted:

“Net-zero by 2030”



“A poll published this week found that nearly 63 per cent of the British public supported the UK parliament declaring a climate emergency – and 76 per cent would vote differently to protect the planet against climate change.”

Lucy Turnbull, AO, Chief Commissioner of Greater Sydney Commission, tweeted:

Barry Gardiner , shadow minister for international climate change, tweeted a compliment to the school striking students and Extinction Rebellion: “OFFICIAL. The U.K. parliament is the first in the world to declare an environmental and climate emergency. Thank you @ExtinctionR and all you schoolstriker activists. YOU DID IT!”



Sue Hayman, a member of Parliament who acts as the Labour Party’s shadow environment secretary, was out more than a month earlier when she took to the House of Commons floor to push for the UK to declare an “an environment and climate emergency”. She tweeted on 28 March 2019:

“I have just declared an environment and climate emergency in the House of Commons on behalf of @UKLabour and challenged Michael Gove to back our declaration. While councils nationwide are declaring climate emergencies this Conservative government just refused to do so.”
~ Sue Hayman, Labour Party’s shadow environment secretary

Media coverage

→ The Guardian – 2 May 2019:
MPs endorse Corbyn’s call to declare climate emergency
“Environment secretary calls for cross-party approach as Labour leader says vote can ‘set off wave of action’”

→ CNN – 1 May 2019:
UK Parliament declares ‘climate emergency’

→ Sky News – 1 May 2019:
MPs vote to declare ‘environment and climate emergency’
“Labour’s leader says it can set off a wave of action around the globe and promises to challenge Donald Trump over climate change.”

→ The Independent – 1 May 2019:
MPs make history by passing Commons motion to declare ‘environment and climate change emergency’
“Jeremy Corbyn calls for motion to ‘set off a wave of action from parliaments and governments around the globe’”

→ The Independent – 1 May 2019:
What is a ‘climate emergency’ – and what are MPs voting on today?
“Theresa May must put the country and politicians on a “war footing” to avert the disasters of climate change, the former Labour leader Ed Miliband has declared as MP’s gear up to vote on whether to declare a ‘climate emergency’.”

→ The Guardian – 1 May 2019:
MPs endorse Corbyn’s call to declare climate emergency
“Environment secretary calls for cross-party approach as Labour leader says vote can ‘set off wave of action’”

→ Reuters – 1 May 2019:
After protests, Britain’s parliament declares climate change “emergency”
“Britain’s parliament declared a symbolic climate change “emergency” on Wednesday, backing a call by opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for “rapid and dramatic action” to protect the environment for generations to come. The measure was passed as an opposition motion, using a procedure typically ignored by the ruling party, and has no direct consequences for policy. But it represents a nod to an increasing vocal activist movement particularly among young people, who have staged school strikes and civil disobedience campaigns to demand action.”

→ Gizmodo – 1 May 2019:
UK Labour Party Declares National Climate Emergency In Likely Political First
“It likely marks the first major party declaring a climate emergency at the national level anywhere in the world, in yet another sign that climate politics are rapidly shifting.”

→ Medium | We Dont Have Time – 1 May 2019:
As the first country in the world, the UK parliament has declared an Emergency for the Climate
“Now all countries must follow! Read how you could start a climate campaign to make your parliament declare a Climate Emergency.”

Extinction Rebellion: A “massive and necessary wake-up call for rapid and dramatic action”

“Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn praised Extinction Rebellion’s actions in London as “the inspiring climate activism we’ve seen in recent weeks” and said it was a “massive and necessary wake-up call for rapid and dramatic action”. He also said he hoped other countries would follow suit in declaring an emergency.”

Listen the interview on

The British Labour party’s shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey was interviewed by Sky News about why Labour will declare a national climate and environmental emergency.

→ Sky News – 28 April 2019:
It’s not all about Brexit: Climate emergency and election challenges


Commons vote on the issue

“MPs will vote on Wednesday whether to declare an environmental and climate emergency following mass protests over political inaction in addressing the crisis. Labour will force a Commons vote on the issue, one of the key demands of the Extinction Rebellion (XR) movement, whose activists paralysed parts of London in previous weeks. Jeremy Corbyn said he hoped other countries would follow if the UK Parliament became the first in the world to declare a climate emergency…”

→ UK Daily Mail – 28 April 2019:
Jeremy Corbyn forces MPs to vote on declaring climate emergency after Extinction Rebellion protests over political inaction
“Labour’s motion has been bolstered by endorsement of activist Greta Thunberg. Acknowledging a full-blown crisis is one of Extinction Rebellion’s core demands. Comes after a ten-day London rally which saw over 1,000 protesters arrested. They glued themselves to trains, office buildings and Jeremy Corbyn’s house.”

→ Mirror – 27 April 2019:
Labour wants UK to be first country in the world to declare climate emergency
“Labour MPs to trigger a green industrial revolution when they declare an environment and climate emergency in the Commons.”

→ The Guardian – 28 April 2019:
Corbyn launches bid to declare a national climate emergency
“Labour will attempt to force Commons vote as it is revealed that the government has failed to spend anti-pollution cash.”


Citizens’ Assembly to oversee climate emergency

Oxford City Council has not only declared a climate emergency since January 2019, but taken things to the next step and become the first local government body in the UK to set up a Citizens’ Assembly to oversee it.

→ Oxford City Council – 23 April 2019:
Oxford City Council to establish UK’s first citizens assembly to address climate emergency
“Oxford City Council is to be the first UK local authority to establish a citizens assembly to help address the issue of climate change, and consider the measures that should be taken in Oxford.”



Scotland and Wales: World’s first governments to declare a climate emergency