For months now, young people around the world have been demonstrating every Friday for more effective climate protection. Their demands, developed together with scientists, are to comply with the goals of the Paris Agreement and to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Shortly before the European elections, they also called for a more ambitious course in climate policy.  

“We are here, we are loud, because you are stealing our future!” Optimism on 24 May in front of the Brandenburg Gate: Thousands of children and young people gathered in Berlin last Friday with colourful, creative messages for a joint protest. Instead of going to school, they decided to follow the call of the Fridays for Future movement and take part in the second global climate strike shortly before the European elections. A total of 1,600 demonstrations were registered in 125 countries and around 200 cities in Germany. More than 15,000 students and supporters, including our ES EnviroSustain team, are said to have joined the protests in Berlin alone.

“This European Parliament election is a climate election”, a speaker of the citizens’ initiative Pulse of Europe declared when opening the official rally: “We are currently at a crossroads and this is the last EU Parliament that can still do something for the climate. This Sunday, we must vote against the climate change deniers. If you can’t vote yet, keep raising your voice”, he continued to call on the protesters. This call to action addressed a large part of the young movement that is not yet entitled to vote. The older supporters, too, were called upon to think about the climate during their vote.

The ES EnviroSustain team was also present at the Fridays for Future climate strike on 24 May 2019 in Berlin to support the children and young people. © Joffrey Umbdenstock

While Greta Thunberg was sitting alone in front of the Swedish parliament building last summer with her protest sign ‘School Strike for the Climate’, a worldwide social movement has now developed along her lines. Many adults have joined the movement in solidarity: More than 26,000 leading scientists back the pupils’ environmental demands under the motto “Scientists for Future”. Businesses have also shown support: More than 1,000 companies have signed the demands of the “Entrepreneurs for Future” initiative, including ES EnviroSustain.

EU election results: students are changing the climate

The movement’s efforts were clearly reflected in the results of the European elections. There was a strong increase in green votes at the European level. In Germany, too, the Green Party was one of the main election winners, scoring 20.5 percent, marking an almost ten point increase compared to the European elections five years ago. The Christian Democrats of CDU and Social Democrats of SPD, on the other hand, lost a significant share of the vote. Sven Giegold, Germany’s leading Green candidate, alluded to the official Election Day by referring to it as a “Sunday for Future” and announced: “We will carry the voice of the climate movement from the streets into the European Parliament and work for a strong European cohesion”.

The results of the European elections indicate that the Fridays for Future movement, after only six months of existence, was able to initiate far-reaching changes in politics. The students’ strong demands have turned the political mood, not only at the supranational level, but also at the local level. In Konstanz City, they encouraged the municipal council to meet the urgent need for action in the face of the climate crisis. The result was the first German-wide declaration of a climate emergency, with which the city of Constance recognises “the mitigation of the climate crisis and its serious consequences as a task of the utmost priority”.

Peacefully and creatively, the school children and young people of the Fridays for Future movement make themselves heard. © Joffrey Umbdenstock

These developments show that this young generation is anything but apolitical. On the contrary, it has recognised the effects that a misguided climate policy will have. It is showing both politicians and society that it needs to give priority to long term sensible actions rather than to short-term economic ones. “The ideas are there, the willingness for social transformation is increasing, also thanks to the friendly criticism from the Fridays for Future demonstrations,” Johan Rockström, co-developer of the planetary boundaries concept, also remarked at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue earlier this month. “What we need now are policymakers at all levels and in every corner of the world who roll up their sleeves and deliver on the Paris climate promise.”

We must continue to actively support the efforts of the children and young people of the Fridays for Future movement. The ES EnviroSustain team pays the movement full respect and unrestricted support – because we are #EntrepreneursForFuture, #ScientistsForFuture and #ParentsForFuture.