20:51 GMT +317 October 2019
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    People attend a climate change demonstration in London, Britain, September 20, 2019. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

    'I Wouldn't Trust the Current UK Government on Their Climate Change Aspirations' - Senior Lecturer

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    Hundreds of thousands of people across the world are taking to the streets to call for urgent measures to tackle climate change, with millions of people in 139 countries expected to take part. In the UK more than 200 events and demonstrations with tens of thousands of people took place throughout the day.

    Dr James Dyke from The University of Exeter, believes that these protests represent the largest worldwide mobilisation for climate justice. 

    Sputnik: Protests are expected across the UK on Friday with pupils leaving schools and workers downing tools in a bid to urge more government action on climate change. Can you tell us a bit about more about this story and just how significant these protests are?

    James Dyke: It's very significant. What we could be seeing today is the largest worldwide mobilisation for climate justice. Now, I'm going to say climate justice, not just climate change because what 'Friday's a Future' is about is getting the grownups/the adults, people like me and you, to take seriously the challenge of climate breakdown because that challenge is going to unfold over the lives of younger people. Fundamentally it’s a question about justice, fairness and equity. We older generations have been married burning coal, oil and gas for decades if not centuries and it's the younger generation, the kids marching on the streets and shouting out, forcing us to look at the reality of the situation. If we don't radically change our way of powering our civilisation, their future really is in serious doubt.

    People attend a climate change demonstration in London, Britain, September 20, 2019. REUTERS/Simon Dawson
    People attend a climate change demonstration in London, Britain, September 20, 2019. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

    It's unprecedented in terms of number. I think when people tally up the crowds that we've already seen in Melbourne and Sydney, and now we're seeing demonstrations spiralling out in Europe and Berlin - I'm seeing some amazing images back. I'm going to be in the regions today, I'm not going to be in London, but I'm going to be on the south coast in Southampton. I don't think we'll ever have seen the numbers of people that have been taken to the streets and it demonstrates that hopefully we're reaching something of a tipping point and when we write the history of humanity's response to the threat of climate breakdown maybe the 20th of September will have a chapter or two itself.

    Sputnik: Most of these recent protests and marches have been organised and carried out by the youth of today. How important is climate change to this new generation of activists and will it have an impact on government?

    James Dyke: That's a really good question. To what extent do protests change politics? In the first instance, it doesn't make any difference at all. Cast your mind back to what was then the biggest message protest in UK history which was the protest against the war in Iraq. Millions on the streets or engaged online and in different places around the United Kingdom and in some respects it changed nothing. There's an awful lot of scepticism and weariness actually on the part of some campaigners to consider what kind of impact today's events is actually going to have. I go back to that expression that I just used, the notion of a tipping point, there are so many new people getting engaged; this isn't just the same bunch of agitators, closet communists, or people trying to sell the socialist worker.

    Protesters hold banners during a climate change demonstration in London, Britain, September 20, 2019. REUTERS/Simon Dawson
    Protesters hold banners during a climate change demonstration in London, Britain, September 20, 2019. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

    This is an entirely new generation of people who don't necessarily have a particular political affiliation, they're just struck by the central features of climate breakdown and global heating, which is one of fairness and justice. Something fundamentally is wrong with our civilization and they are demanding action and I think politicians will ignore this at their peril because this isn't a story that is going to go away. I think the action and the sense of urgency is only going to build over time.

    Sputnik: Britain’s Energy minister Kwasi Kwarteng stated that the voices of striking children were being heard but did not "endorse children leaving school". What would you say to these arguments? Is it important enough for them to skip school for a day?

    James Dyke: The short answer is yes. The longer answer will involve me saying that I wouldn't trust the current UK government on their climate change aspirations as far as I could throw them. They have consistently demonstrated that they are not promoting renewable energy; they have put in paid a planning change which makes onshore wind development extremely challenging; they've slashed the financial support for some forms of domestic solar; they are promoting fracking and they are subsidizing the oil and gas industry... You just look at the track record of our particular government and on the other side, you have young people who are giving up their time and energy and the resources and investing their passion and their interest in energy, in trying to make the world a better place - not just for them. We will focus today on demonstrations that are happening in developed world. I already talked about Melbourne, Berlin and London but really the people who are going to be affected and who are being affected right now are people who live a long way from us, they're in the global developing south and some people are already being killed as a consequence of climate change and increased intensity of storms. So really it is for these people that we are marching for, these people who desperately need to have a voice so for any current UK government minister to suggest that children are not using their time wisely today by striking or somehow the United Kingdom is sufficiently responding to the challenge of climate breakdown. I will just fundamentally disagree with that.

    Views and opinions, expressed in the article are those of James Dyke and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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