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Lord Williams backs new climate-change strikes

15 March 2019

Non-violent direct action needed, says former Archbishop


Schoolchildren in Christchurch, New Zealand, take part in strikes from school, to protest against inaction by governments in combating climate change, last Friday

Schoolchildren in Christchurch, New Zealand, take part in strikes from school, to protest against inaction by governments in combating climate change,...

SCHOOLCHILDREN around the world, including the UK, went on strike last Friday to demand more action to tackle climate change. Similar protests were held last month (News, 22 February).

The Fridays for Future website says that nearly 1.3 million schoolchildren, in 130 countries, took part in the strikes. More are planned for 12 April.

The world is currently not on track to limit global warming to less than 1.5º Celsius by 2050, as set out in the Paris Agreement.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams, who also chairs Christian Aid, recorded a video message supporting the strikers.

He said: “The nature of changes in climate and environment that we are living with threaten not only the well-being, but also the being, of our species on this planet. . . It’s not surprising that people in this urgent situation feel they have to take non-violent direct action. They’ve got to find a way of putting the case for the human race before those in power.”

These sentiments were echoed at General Synod last month, where earlier action by children was praised by bishops. The Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, said: “I don’t want to chide them or patronise them. I want to say I am 100 per cent behind them.

“Climate change cannot be a matter of indifference for any of us, and we cannot underestimate the seriousness of this. Behind this is a fundamental desire to see us, as a Church, recover our prophetic edge. For that to happen, I believe we need prophetic people to stir us up.”

The Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, the C of E’s lead bishop on the environment, said: “In terms of the care of God’s creation, young people get it.”

The movement was started by a Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, aged 16, who last July started sitting alone each day outside the Swedish Parliament in protest at its failure to comply with the Paris Agreement. She now restricts her protests to every Friday, and is joined on occasion by hundreds of other schoolchildren. This week she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

In an interview with The Guardian this week, she spoke of her Asperger syndrome: “It’s just who I am. If I had been just like everyone else and been social, then I would have just tried to start an organisation. But I couldn’t do that. I’m not very good with people, so I did something myself instead.”

Christian Aid’s youth-and-campaigns manager, Richard Baker, said: “The phrase ‘Out of the mouths of babes comes wisdom’ is based on the Psalms. It feels like an appropriate summary today.”

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