I am 15 years old, and like so many young people across the world, I came to climate activism through protest. I don’t know exactly how to write a policy; what exact words or grammar should be used. I am not a scientist. I am a year 9 student. But through joining the School Strike for Climate (SS4C) movement, I have learned the basic science and policies, and I am doing my best to make a change in this world.
Earlier this year, I took to the streets of Milan to strike with Greta Thunberg, demanding climate justice. We were together at Youth4Climate, an event held in Milan preceding Cop26, the UN Climate Change Conference, that brought 400 young people from 200 countries together to draft a paper and present it to ministers from around the world.
At the end of the conference, we compiled statements on what it would take to create a fully sustainable future without leaving vulnerable communities behind. It was then read out to environment ministers from more than 40 countries.
Australia was not one of those countries. And once again Australia won’t be included in the vital conversations about legitimate and ambitious climate action, instead taking a policy that is weak and unacceptable to Cop26 as our country’s primary way of reducing emissions. This doesn’t give me any sense of hope.
With Cop26 taking place in Glasgow, the world is watching.
Our country is already being hit hard by the effects of climate change. We have all the resources to be a leading country taking action, but our government chooses to do nothing. Indigenous communities in the most vulnerable areas can’t wait any longer. Regional and rural communities hit hard by the 2019-20 bushfires, and those still suffering drought can’t wait any longer. Young people who can’t attend school due to extreme heat and weather can’t wait any longer. We all cannot wait any longer.
When I talked to the other school strikers, they told me of their hopes for Cop26: to see our leaders negotiate and be held accountable to their promise to limit warming to well below 2?C and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5?C, recognising that warming beyond that limit is deadly for humanity, as in the Paris agreement. But we are also frustrated. We are sick of conference upon conference, as if that alone is the solution. The clock is ticking.
Our movement is pushing for a target of 60% emissions reduction on 2005 levels by 2030. At a minimum, Australia needs to join the US in committing to halving emissions in this time. We also need to provide financial assistance to already impacted places, such as the Philippines and Torres Strait Islands, and to lay out plans now so that we reach net zero no later than 2050.
Climate change is not just an environmental issue, it is an issue of justice – people’s human rights are at risk. Our actions will have, indeed already do have, irreversible impact on people and places around us.
I have always been passionate about standing up for what is right, and caring for the environment is a major part of that. But it became more personal when my youth group camp was evacuated from regional Victoria in early January 2020 during Australia’s 2019-20 bushfires. These threats remain very real. So it is now, more than ever, that I feel empowered and inspired to take action.
So as the world looks to Glasgow, join me and fight for climate justice, while there’s still time.
Ella Simons is a 15-year-old high school student and member of the School Strike for Climate movement. She is based in Melbourne