3 Mar 2023

School students set to protest for more action on climate change

10:03 am on 3 March 2023
Crowds for the School Strike 4 Climate march in Wellington begin to grow in Civic Square.

Protesters at a demonstration in Wellington, April 2021. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Students will be ditching the classroom on Friday afternoon to join the latest school strike for climate, demanding immediate action on climate change from the government.

After the fallout from the Auckland floods and the devastating effects of Cyclone Gabrielle across the North Island, the organisers of the protest have five demands.

"We picked these after talking with scientists and experts and policy advisers on what they thought would be the key five legislative demands that government could put in place now to reduce emissions and protect our natural environment," School Strike for Climate Christchurch spokesperson Aurora Garner-Randolph, 17, told RNZ's Morning Report today.

No more fossil fuel mining or exploration is top of the list, if New Zealand was to play its part in 2015's Paris Agreement.

"Everybody is saying that in order to meet the 1.5C warming goal that we need to have no further coal, oil or gas exploration - but despite that, the government is still granting new exploration permits…

"We have a huge untapped potential in renewables here in Aotearoa, and we need to focus on that and moving away from fossil fuels."

The group also wants the electric car rebate scheme expanded to include e-bikes.

"We've obviously seen the electric car rebate scheme be really successful and it's resulted in, you know, a real increase in people purchasing those cars," said Garner-Randolph.

"Trips in Aotearoa, the average one is incredibly short, people driving. So we think that this scheme would change the conversation we have around transport."

Other demands include greater marine protection, funding a transition to regenerative farming and lowering the voting age to 16.

"Obviously if we're able to pay taxes, you know, drive a car, join the army, have a child, we feel that we have the responsibility to be able to say where those taxes are spent…

"It's our generation that's going to have to deal with these effects coming on in the future from extreme weather events, so we have a real vested interest in being able to say how our government acts now to prevent those things in the future."

New Zealanders on average in 2021 produced 6.59 tonnes of carbon dioxide each - about 40 percent above the world average, according to the Our World In Data Global Carbon Project. Climate Action Tracker, an international project which rates countries' efforts towards meeting their climate obligations, ranks New Zealand's efforts overall as "highly insufficient".

New Zealand's farming industry also produces a lot of methane, which though it does not remain in the atmosphere as long as CO2, traps a lot more heat.

But our small population means we contribute only about 0.09 percent of the world's total C02 emissions.

Garner-Randolph said it did not matter that Aotearoa only accounted for a tiny fraction of the world's emissions.

"Now isn't the time for finger-pointing and saying, 'Oh other countries are producing far more emissions.' It's our responsibility as global citizens, as players on the global stage, to step up and do our part, no matter how big or small it is.

"And we have incredibly high per capita emissions here in Aotearoa, so although we may be small, we are high individual emitters and that needs to change."

She was expecting a big turnout this afternoon, in the region of 15,000 to 20,000 people.

"We reckon it's going to be a really big strike. We've got over 10 locations around the country striking, not just the big cities this time, so it's going to be a really big event."

The last school strikes took place in September.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs