Four University of Sussex students were invited to the European Parliament in Brussels to meet with Members of European Parliament to discuss Climate Change.
Students Mary-Jane Farrell, Roseanne Steffen, Aidan Evans-Jesra and Harry Jenkinson, who are organisers of the Youth Strike 4 Climate in Brighton, met with MEPs and fellow climate change activists at the event which took place from Wednesday March 20 to Friday March 22.
The students were facilitated by MEP Arne Lietz who is a member of Germany’s Social Democratic Party. They also met with several other EU parliamentarians including a Vice-President of the parliament.
They told The Badger how they were especially encouraged by plans to open up the EU parliament building for youth activists from across Europe to discuss our demands for immediate action over climate change.
The Youth Strike 4 Climate movement is a global movement made up of over a million young people, with protests having taken part in a number of countries.
The movement began in August 2018 when 15 year-old Swedish school student Greta Thunberg refused to go to school after wildfires and heat-waves sparked concern over the Swedish Government’s environmental policy.
She then demanded the Swedish Government reduce carbon emissions continuing to strike on Fridays. This grabbed global attention.
Brighton has so far seen two organised youth strikes, one on February 15 and one on March 15 in which thousands of youths participated.
The February strike saw a march from the Clock Tower to The Level where speeches made by students, academics and MP Caroline Lucas.
The students did, however, express concern over some of the responses MEPs gave to their questions, saying “we felt that some of the responses to our questions around political action over climate change were by no means adequate.
“As we pointed out, if politicians were already doing enough then we wouldn’t need to be there!”
They also gave filmed interviews about their climate message to the European Parliament, but said they felt it was “highly tokenistic and we wanted to be given a proper opportunity to really tell those in power what needs to be done.”
This led them to shouting for climate justice in the main parliament plenary building.
They told us that “this action, which turned a lot of heads, was quite necessary.
“Afterall, the parliament is where we the people are supposed to be represented!”
The students also met with other youth climate activists and Youth Strike leaders from across Europe.
They said they “were deeply inspired by their ability and commitment to help mobilise tens of thousands of young people to march for our future.”
On the Friday, they met with Global Witness, an organisation which attempts to expose violence, corruption, and environmental decline and highlights the efforts and struggles of environmental activists around the world.
“It was so encouraging to learn of their work for environmental defenders and we’re really looking forward to collaborating with them more on matters of climate justice.”
Henry Jenkinson told The Badger “As climate activists here in the UK, it’s incredibly important to recognise our own privileges which allow us to mobilise freely.
“Climate change massively, disproportionately affects people in the Global South, hundreds of thousands of whom are dying from the carbon-emitting policies of our governments here in the Global North.
“That’s why here at the Brighton Youth Strike 4 Climate, we’re putting an emphasis on climate justice as a central and essential part of the climate movement.”
They finished off by telling us that “Overall, we felt the visit was a highly worthwhile and informative experience, which has given us a firsthand insight into climate policy at the EU parliament and helped us to voice our generation’s demands at this important international organisation.
“It has motivated us even more to keep up our efforts for climate justice and to keep spreading the message until it transpires into serious political action.
“The next Youth Strike for Climate in Brighton will be held on 12th April and we want you all to join us! We hope to get as many people there as possible. You can find out more and connect with Youth Strike 4 Climate Brighton through our social media sites.”
Photo courtesy of YouthStrike4Climate