UK Conservative politicians back ‘inspirational’ school climate strikers

Public opinion and government ministers back young people skipping school to protest climate inaction, in contrast to the prime minister’s early scepticism

UK environment secretary and prominent Brexiteer Michael Gove (Photo: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)


The tide of British public opinion is overwhelmingly with children skipping school to protest climate inaction, data released on Friday shows, as politicians rode the wave of support.

A poll published by the Conservative Environment Network (CER) on the day of a global climate strike found 53% of British adults support the young strikers, with only 15% opposed to the actions. That figure is even higher among young people, with 60% of 18-34 year olds backing the movement.

At the time of publication, 1,693 protests had been registered across 106 countries with the German movement Fridays for Future.

Such enthusiasm has prompted members of the British government to come out in support of the movement, despite Theresa May’s initial reserve. In February, a spokesperson for the British prime minister described the UK climate strike as a “disruption [that] increases teacher’s workloads and wastes lesson time that teachers have carefully prepared for”.

In contrast, a crop of Conservative lawmakers including environment secretary Michael Gove, clean growth minister Claire Perry and former minister Richard Benyon issued a video praising the “inspirational” climate school strikers.

Commenting on “the extraordinary passion of the school strikers,” Benyon said “these are young people whose lives will be much more affected by climate change than the generations leaving them this legacy”.

Media reports have also suggested that green measures contained in a spring budget update this week were intended to address the strikers’ concerns. Chancellor Phillip Hammond announced a ban on gas heating in new-build houses from 2025 and pledged to work with airlines to offer passengers the chance to offset their emissions.

The UK Student Climate Network has urged British politicians to give young people a greater voice in the climate conversation. In a letter circulated on Twitter on Thursday, the group called on a group of British leaders that included Jeremy Corbyn, Theresa May, and Nicola Sturgeon, to meet with them.

In Germany, green lawmakers have scheduled a debate at 14:50 CET in response to the strike.

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