Scores of youngsters from schools across Portsmouth yesterday went on ‘strike’ to join the environmental rally instead of taking part in lessons.
Children aged between 11 and 16 climbed the steps of Guildhall to give passionate speeches about rising global temperatures, pollution and sea levels.
The demonstration, supported by activists from across the city, came ahead of a planned climate change march through Portsmouth today.
Among those at the event was 16-year-old Extinction Rebellion activist Keira Powel, of Waterlooville.
Speaking to The News, Keira said: ‘We often think of young people not being involved in climate change and politics. But we are just as important and need to stand up and show that we are here and we are fighting.
‘Today has been empowering for young people. But it is unfair that we have to be worrying about these problems. Young people should be able to go to school without a care in the world.’
More than a dozen schoolchildren from Priory School in Southsea attended the demonstration, after being allowed to leave lessons to have their voices heard.
One of the youngest children from the school in attendance was 11-year-old Lisa Hill, who took to the stage to give a speech to the dozens of people attending the protest, in Guildhall Square.
The Year 7 pupil said: ‘This is a really important matter to me. Older people who have caused this problem are going to go and leave it all to us to deal with. By then, it could be too late to do something - we could all be wiped out if action isn’t taken now.’
Fellow Priory pupil Mia Thomas. Agreed. The 13-year-old of Southsea, who attended with her classmates and her mother, Megan, 43, said: ‘We are the generation that has to save all those other generations. This is the last chance to save this planet.’
Friend Mariella Seek, 13 of Southsea, added: ‘I don’t think young people are being listened to enough. It’s good for students and young people to have a voice and for adults to be able to listen to that voice.’
The protest came as hundreds of world leaders continued their discussions on how to tackle climate change during the COP26 event in Glasgow.
Priory School pupil Anaya Adedzo, 13, was among those at the event questioning how serious political leaders were when it came to tackling climate change.
She said: ‘I don’t think our leaders are doing enough. I think they have to realise this is our future they’re dealing with.’
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Also taking part in the event was Steve Wright, who is part of the executive council of the southern region for the Fire Brigades Union.
Mr Wright said: ‘Scientists are quite clear that the threat of wildfires and floods are going to increase more and more.
‘We're seeing up and down the country chief fire officers reducing the amount of firefighters we have got. In Portsmouth alone, over the last year, we have lost 70 firefighters.Yet we’re attending more and more incidents.
‘Great Thunberg said “the planet is burning”. So to actually cut firefighters at a time when the planet is burning seems like we’re fanning the flames.’
Councillor Suzy Horton, Portsmouth City Council’s cabinet member for children and young people, was fully behind the protest.
The Lib Dem – who was once suspended as a 17-year-old prefect at school for staging a protest over similar environmental concerns – said: ‘It’s been great to see young people motivated to try and get their voices heard. ‘I think we really need to be listening to them because this is their future.’