Greta Thunberg is leading kids and adults from 150 countries in a massive Friday climate strike

The international protest will come ahead of the UN Climate Action Summit.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, 16, uses a bullhorn to speak to a crowd.
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg delivers remarks to campaigners in Washington, DC, on September 13, 2019. She will lead the Global Climate Strike on Friday. Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

Young people from around the world are leading a massive coordinated strike from school on Friday, September 20, to protest government and business inaction on climate change. It is likely to be one of the largest environmental protests in history.

The Global Climate Strike comes just before countries will gather at the United Nations for the Climate Action Summit on September 23. It’s a meeting ahead of the UN General Assembly where countries are supposed to ramp up their ambitions to curb greenhouse gases under the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

“If you can’t be in the strike, then, of course, you don’t have to,” 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, the original school striker who began last year demanding more action from her government on climate change with weekly protests, told Teen Vogue. “But I think if there is one day you should join, this is the day.”

Thunberg has become an increasingly influential figurehead and voice for youth climate angst and activism. Since she no longer flies because of the aviation industry’s high carbon emissions, she was offered the opportunity to travel to the US on a zero-emissions sailboat. After arriving on August 28, she’s now in Washington, DC, speaking before Congress and meeting with US lawmakers and activists before heading to New York City for the strike and the summit.

It’s a big moment for Thunberg and the legions of youth and adult activists and leaders she’s inspired since she began skipping school on Fridays to protest outside the Swedish Parliament in August 2018. Thousands of young people in the movement, called Fridays for Future, now strike every Friday to demand more aggressive action from their governments and the international community. The last large-scale coordinated climate strike on May 24 drew participants from 130 countries.

The New York strike is expected to attract thousands of people, and parallel strikes in DC, Boston, Seattle, Minneapolis, Miami, Los Angeles, and Denver may, too. But this is truly a global strike and it will be the movement’s largest yet, with 2,500 events scheduled across 150 countries. (The Global Climate Strike website has a searchable map showing all the events.) Millions in all may participate.

Thunberg will be leading a demonstration at Foley Square starting at noon Friday in New York City, followed by a rally and march to Battery Park. The 1.1 million students in the city’s public schools have even been excused students to join the strike.

And it’s not just young people joining in. In Sweden, a group of senior citizens called Gretas Gamilingar (Greta’s oldies) is participating. Indigenous activists, labor groups, faith leaders, humanitarian groups, and environmental organizations like Greenpeace and 350.org will be there, too. Outdoor equipment company Patagonia said it will close its stores on Friday in solidarity with the strike. So is snowboard brand Burton. More than 1,000 employees at Amazon have pledged to join the strike. MORE

Tick. Tock. People of all ages have had enough. The Climate Crisis must be stopped. This Friday people will descend on cities and towns across the world…will you?

 

California Gov. Jerry Brown casually unveils history’s most ambitious climate target

Full carbon neutrality is now on the table for the world’s fifth largest economy.

California Governor Jerry Brown Speaks At The National Press Club
California Gov. Jerry Brown is going out with a bang. Alex Wong/Getty Images

California Gov. Jerry Brown kicked off a week full of climate change news with an announcement, and boy was it a doozy: at once surprising, strange, and stunning. It was so out of left field and yet so profound in its implications that few in the media, or even in California, seem to have fully absorbed it yet.

To explain, we must begin with a little backstory.

This week, from September 12 to 14, the Global Climate Action Summit will take over San Francisco. The big climate shindig — three days of meetings, exhibitions, and glad-handing with big names in climate policy from around the world — will, among other things, serve as a kind of capstone celebration of Brown’s climate legacy.

Brown had hoped to begin the week by signing a high-profile package of energy bills. The one he most wanted to sign, into which he had poured the most political capital, was a bill that would link California’s energy grid to a larger Western power market. The one for which he had shown the least enthusiasm, into which he had put the least capital, was a bill that would commit California to 100 percent use of zero-carbon electricity by 2045.

That is big news in and of itself; 100 percent clean electricity is a difficult and worthy challenge.

But Brown didn’t stop there. Much to everyone’s surprise, on the same day, he also signed an executive order (B-55-18) committing California to total, economy-wide carbon neutrality by 2045.

Wait, whaaat? Zeroing out carbon entirely in California? In just over 20 years? In my expert opinion, that is … holy shit.

Let’s remember that this is only an executive order, not a law, and there are reasons to greet it with some skepticism, or at least hedged expectations. We’ll get to them in a second.

But y’all: If California really did this — if the world’s fifth-largest economy really targeted economy-wide carbon neutrality by 2045 — it would be the most significant carbon policy commitment ever. Anywhere. Period. It would yank the Overton window open, radically expanding the space of climate policy possibilities.

Economy-wide carbon neutrality, explained

The key to understanding the significance of the goal is grokking the difference between “electricity” and “energy,” which has continually been blurred by the mainstream press (and by some enthusiastic environmentalists).

SB 100, the bill Brown signed on Monday, commits the state to clean electricity by 2045, but electricity only accounts for about 16 percent of California’s greenhouse gas emissions. Brown’s executive order would commit the state to doing something about the other 84 percent — transportation, building heating and cooling, industry, all the many and varied energy services that rely on direct fossil fuel combustion rather than electricity.

This is the holy grail of climate policy: a large, modern economy getting to zero net carbon. It came into view faster than I ever would have predicted 10 years ago. Or five years ago. Or, uh, 24 hours ago! MORE

The Story of Sustainability in 2018: “We Have About 12 Years Left”

The big question now is whether businesses will push back and go down a cleaner path on their own. It’s easy to see why multinationals might as they face pressure from sub-national regions — California Gov. Jerry Brown held a Global Climate Action Summit which produced many aggressive climate goes from cities and state, for example.

Gov. Brown also signed aggressive new laws committing to carbon-free electricity statewide by 2045 and requiring solar on all new homes. So even if U.S. action sputters, governors and mayors who influence local and regional business conditions will be pushing the clean economy and pro-climate agendas. MORE