Climate protection: can the young take charge?

The Fridays for Future climate protection movement is on track for a record turnout at protests this Friday. Young people in more than 1,000 locations and almost 100 countries plan to take to the streets to demand that politicians take action against climate change. Europe's commentators are full of praise and encouragement - but also raise a few questions.

Open/close all quotes
La Stampa (IT) /

Millenials rebelling against fatalism

The young are refusing to be fobbed off with fatalist arguments, praises journalist Christian Rocca in La Stampa:

“This is not the first time that young people have mobilised against global warming. But it's the first time that public opinion has grasped how urgent the situation is. The young people's Global Strike for Future against government lethargy on climate change is by no means a spontaneous protest but rather the consequence of the growing awareness of the younger generation. They know more about the risks to humanity than former generations did. The new awareness of the demonstrating millenials has everything to do with their questioning traditional arguments meant to show that dreams cannot come true, and that financing cannot be found. Because such arguments only continue to deny the urgency of saving our planet.”

Público (PT) /

Hope, not bitterness

Público criticises the lack of openness to the protest movement at Portuguese schools:

“For the first time in many years young people have decided to leave their comfort zone and take to the streets to protest for changes to the climate policy. Seldom in this world of old and bitter politicians have there been so many reasons to believe that the fight for the public good and our future is not yet lost. ... What the young Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has set in motion is a promising change. Consequently the hostile attitude of the Portuguese school community towards the movement is hard to understand. ... One could certainly have expected the schools to function as hubs for an open debate about what is at stake here.”

Večer (SI) /

Probably our last chance

Today for the first time Slovenian youths will also take part in the protests. Večer is thrilled:

“Maybe the new generation will be able to defeat all the denial, egotism, and short-sightedness. In any event it is undeniable that Greta Thunberg, the girl with the plaits, has done much to achieve that goal. Perhaps the enthusiasm on the part of many who have given her their support isn't sincere. Nevertheless it is entirely fitting that it is first and foremost the young who are waging this battle. It's too late, however, for a division between young and old. ... We've lost too much time and there's little time left to take action. This is probably our last chance.”

Jyllands-Posten (DK) /

Don't just demonstrate, make sacrifices

The young must also make demands of their own generation, Jyllands-Posten comments:

“One litmus test for whether the young are serious would be to ask whether the demonstrations would be as big if they took place on the weekend. Another, equally important test is whether youths are ready to take the first step. The biggest increase in global energy consumption comes from data centres. No one is as active on the Internet as the young, and it would be interesting to know if they're willing to limit their time online. And would they be willing to stop wearing clothes made from synthetic fibres derived from fossil fuels?”

Expressen (SE) /

Now it's time for the adults to take action

Expressen hopes that the older generations will be infected by Greta Thunberg's spirit and enthusiasm:

“Greta Thunberg could hold the match that ignites the spark. Young people in other countries have followed her lead and staged school strikes: tens of thousands have demonstrated in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, England and Australia. In Belgium the Flemish environmental minister Joke Schauvliege resigned after she claimed the environmental demonstrations were neither spontaneous nor convincing but rather a sinister political plan. ... But no matter how persistent these young people are, nothing can be achieved if the adults fail to shoulder their responsibility.”

De Morgen (BE) /

The mighty fear the young climate activists

Greta Thunberg has met EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels. De Morgen criticises his condescending attitude, which it sees as a sign of weakness:

“This is not about a day off from school. The concerns of these youths are sincere and echoed by many. These young people have taken by surprise a ruling class that has too long been content to look out for its own interests. A painful symbol of this was the meeting between Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. The only thing the high-ranking politician offered the young idealist was pity marked by contempt. The climate youths don't fit into the familiar power structures. They speak with authority, precisely because they stand outside all authority structures.”

La Tribune (FR) /

Reconcile green and yellow protests

Governments must finally reconcile social and environmental concerns, writes Philippe Mabille, editor-in-chief of La Tribune:

“Whether green or yellow, this awakening of civil society is good news if it transforms anger into action. The difficulty for governments is to reconcile the two struggles. Until now, however, the end of the month has won out over the end of the world. ... If there is to be a carbon tax, its revenues must be completely and transparently redistributed in the form of subsidies aiding the energy transition. The examples of Sweden and British Columbia should serve as inspiration. Not only energy consumption has gone down there, but growth and green jobs have flourished.”

Zeit Online (DE) /

More instructive than many a school class

Zeit Online finds it outrageous that some schools won't accept the demonstrations as a reason for pupils to miss school:

“How crazy is that! ... Today's children can't rely on us solving the problems that will have a negative impact on them tomorrow. So they have to fight for themselves today - even if it goes against school regulations. ... They should be proud of the non-excused absences from classes on their school reports. ... They learn more about civic engagement during a day of demonstrating - mobilising schoolmates, making banners, organising climate-neutral travel and debates (perhaps even with teachers and parents) - than in many a class on politics.”

Le Soir (BE) /

Appeal to a lethargic elite

The young climate protection movement has enormous potential, Le Soir writes:

“People need unifying myths that help build a collective society, as [Israeli historian Yuval Noah] Harari writes. If the elites can't offer a sufficiently integrating myth, others will. The yellow vests, or the younger generation which is determined to go out and demonstrate each week for a true climate policy. First the school pupils and now university students. Last Thursday 38,000 marched in our cities. How many will it be next week? ... If the elites don't understand that they have to deliver concrete answers, and fast, they shouldn't be surprised when they're swept aside.”

Pravda (SK) /

Central Europe not safe by a long shot

The young demonstrators are doing the right thing in calling on politicians to take joint action, Pravda finds:

“If governments don't take action, Greta Thunberg and her generation won't have a rosy future. The contents of the UN climate change report presented at the end of last year are terrifying, among other things because of the urgent tone of the scientists. ... Central Europe can congratulate itself on the moderate predictions for this region. But for the rest of the world the scenario is considerably more threatening. But of course, the rest of the world will start heading in our direction. We won't be able to stop hundreds of millions of people who are threatened by climate change from doing this.”

Sydsvenskan (SE) /

Consumers starting to listen to Greta

Greta Thunberg's initiative has changed a lot of things, writes Göteborg Posten:

“Thunberg's involvement has inspired young people in many places, and similar demonstrations are now taking place elsewhere in Europe: Belgium, Switzerland, Germany. At the same time, there are signs that Swedish consumers are assuming greater responsibility for climate change. Second-hand clothing stores did well in December - while standard retailers generally didn't do so well. Despite expectations that records would be broken the weakest Christmas trade since 2010 was recorded. In addition there's growing awareness of the emissions caused by air travel, and this seems to be influencing the Swedes' travel habits. The travel industry is observing increased interest in vacations by rail.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Hate aimed at activist is a strategy

Der Standard takes a look at the hate tirades against Greta Thunberg, most of which are to be found on social media:

“'Eco-Pippi', 'climate hysterics', 'disturbed behaviour', 'persecuted by doomsday fantasies'. Greta Thunberg is a victim of 'child abuse' backed by 'organisations that are exploiting her for their own ends', or worse still by 'journalists' and 'politicians' ... All this is part of the right-wing populists' strategy. They don't care about climate change, because the answers are complicated and demand a sacrifice from everyone. That doesn't fit in with the populists' election arithmetic scheme. It's much easier to simply brand people as foreign. Or as different, as they do with Greta Thunberg.”