Climate: what can the student protests achieve?

Together with Greta Thunberg and youths from across Europe, pupils in Paris will demonstrate today, Friday, for an ambitious climate policy. With her school strike the 16-year-old Swedish schoolgirl has inspired tens of thousands of young people, particularly in Belgium and Germany, and on Thursday she opened an EU Commission event. Commentators evaluate the young activists' chances of success.

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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.”