Why are the climate strikes even necessary?

Why are children having to demand politicians do the most basic part of their jobs?

At 16 I developed a passion for politics driven by the need to deal with the looming climate crisis. I’m now 31.

Governments knew about the threat posed by greenhouse gas emissions in the 1980s. So why am I sat here 15 years later writing about today’s children walking out of school to demand a solution?

I remember groups like Friend’s of the Earth running huge campaigns for the transition needed. I remember adverts in the cinema, on billboards, and the vast majority of MPs signing up to support the campaign. The Climate Change Act was passed, yet there are signs we're actually going backwards.

Here are just a few recent examples:

  • Aggressively promoting the fracking despite overwhelming public opposition. Ministers have changed planning laws multiple times, overridden decisions by local councils, all while choking the emerging renewable energy industry in the UK.

  • Scrapping subsidies for solar and wind farms have halted their rapid spread across the country,

  • Refusing support for potentially revolutionary tidal lagoon technology on Wales’ southern coast.

After years of falling emissions in the UK, the cuts are slowing down each year. While on the global stage, the UK was lobbying for EU climate targets to be weakened.

Why is all this happening?

There are two distinct ways the fossil fuel industry - which climate activists say we should be rapidly winding down[1], maintain a shocking level of influence over our democracy.

The Conservative party received £2.6m in donations from the oil and gas industry in recent years. In 2017, £400,000 appeared in their coffers just before the party’s manifesto committed to “unprecedented support already provided to the oil and gas sector.”

Then there’s the money the industry invests shaping public debate. We now know of close links between oil giant BP and free-market think tank the IEA. The IEA led the way spreading doubt about climate science in the UK. Now they work as part of a transatlantic network to gut environmental standards after Brexit.

A handful of billionaires and their political networks have been deciding our country’s response to climate change. And the results have been disastrous.

Our future is being stolen from us. Our decrepit political system makes it easy to make decisions behind closed doors and with few checks on their power.

Children are having to demand government do its most basic job - defending citizens from systemic threats. That failure is a damning indictment of our democracy. .

Sam CoatesComment