MELBOURNE/WELLINGTON (REUTERS) - Thousands of young activists in Australia and New Zealand launched a global protest on Friday (May 24) demanding that politicians and business leaders move swiftly to curb greenhouse gas emissions to fight climate change.
Coordinators expect more than a million young people to join protests in at least 110 countries, inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg's demand for urgent action to slow global warming.
"I'm worried about all the weather disasters. Everytime we have huge a bushfire here another animal might go extinct," said Nina Pasqualini, a 13-year-old at a rally in Melbourne, led by the group Extinction Rebellion.
"The government isn't doing as much as it should. It's just scary for younger generations," she said, holding up a placard seeking to stop a proposed new coal mine in Australia.
Global warming due to heat-trapping greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels has brought more droughts and heatwaves, melting of glaciers, rising sea levels and devastating floods, scientists say.
Australia just had its hottest summer on record.
Last year, global carbon emissions hit a record high, despite a warning from the UN-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in October that output of the gases will have to be slashed over the next 12 years to stabilise the climate.
Against a backdrop of elections to the European Parliament, which began on Thursday, the school strikers in Frankfurt plan to march on the headquarters of the European Central Bank to demand that it stop financing the fossil fuel industry.
The ECB says its mandate is to control inflation and not to favour certain market sectors over others.
Since Thunberg began a single-handed climate protest outside the Swedish parliament in August, the Fridays for Future school strike movement has grown exponentially, with groups inspired by her example rapidly clustering into larger, self-organising networks connected across time zones by social media.
Sophie Hanford, a national organiser in New Zealand, and the Melbourne organisers said they anticipate a huge student-led strike in September that would include adults and workers.
"There'll definitely be more. This is only the beginning," Hanford said on New Zealand's Breakfast television show.