More than 2500 people skipped school and work today to attend the Gold Coast’s own branch of the global School Strike 4 Climate rally at Victoria Park in Broadbeach.
The Gold Coast strikers were part of an estimated 300,000 people from more than 100 Australian towns and cities who took part in today’s strikes.
Organisers estimate that millions of people in thousands of cities worldwide had planned to march today as part of the world’s largest climate protest, with Australia being one of the first countries to kick off proceedings due to the international time difference.
A similar global demonstration in March saw 1.6 million people strike worldwide.
Today’s rallies, which were part of the School Strike for Climate (SS4C) movement, were organised to demand increased government action over climate change.
SS4C was established in 2018 as an international movement of school students who took time off class to participate in demonstrations to push climate action.
The event at Broadbeach began at midday with an acknowledgement of country and was followed by talks from student and key speakers.
Speakers included school student strikers Narii, Jasmine, Tadhg and Theo, as well as a Queensland Teachers Union representative and a Beechmont resident affected by bushfires.
Just after 1pm, protesters marched from Victoria Park, through Broadbeach mall, south along Old Burleigh Road, west along Elizabeth Avenue and north along Surf Parade, ending up back at Victoria Park.
SS4C said the global protests were planned to take place just a day before the United Nations hosted its Youth Climate Summit in New York, and three days before its Climate Action Summit.
According to the UN Climate Action Summit website, the meeting was scheduled with the aim of convening global leaders to showcase concrete and realistic climate solutions in the face of an emergency.
Kenmore State High School year 12 student, Megan Gardner, was actively involved in the Brisbane climate strike rally.
Ms Gardner said she took part in the movement because she saw the impact of fire and flooding in the region.
“Our home is burning, and we know this is because of climate change, so I’m striking for Queensland,” she said.
The Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre (BNHCRC) Seasonal Bushfire Outlook Report showed evidence that 2018 to 2019 was the worst recorded fire season in history, in Queensland and in much of Australia.
The report showed that the bushfire season has also started earlier than usual, with fires burning more frequently and for longer periods.
The BNHCRC linked the record season to a warming trend of above-average temperatures occurring every year in addition to below average rainfall nationwide.
Ms Gardner said students attending today’s School Strike 4 Climate rallies had three main demands.
“No new coal, oil, or gas projects including the Adani mine; funding of a transmission to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030; and for the government to find a just transition for fossil fuels industry workers,” she said.
Gold Coast City Council member for Division 9, Glenn Tozer, said he agreed with protestors that those in power could take stronger environmental action.
“I think there will always be room for improvement and I would support a community-driven action plan to address the concerns of citizens when it comes to climate change,” Mr Tozer said.
“Frankly, change occurs more often, more swiftly and more effectively by shifts in community behaviour than by legislative change at a local level,” he said.
Ms Gardner said climate strikers had answers, but just want them implemented.
“We know that fossil fuels are the main driver of climate change and we also have a solution, so we need to act on it,” she said.
Gecko Environmental Council member Rose Adams said Australia’s climate policies and actions were insufficient, and said issues needed to be fixed for future generations.
Gecko is a Currumbin-based council formed in 1989 when six members from existing local conservation groups came together to form a steering committee.
Today Gecko members are active in Gold Coast environmental conservation by educating locals and running their own campaigns, including a Climate Change Action plan that began in 2016.
“The prime purpose of having these protests around the world is to show the world leaders meeting at the UN summit on the 23rd that people, particularly young people, are really concerned about their future in the face of advancing climate change and we want some real action,” Ms Adams said.
Ms Adams said she had seen first hand through her work the harmful effects of global warming on the Gold Coast.
“We can see it particularly in our alpine regions like Springbrook, it’s slowly drying up, the aquifers are drying up, and species are becoming rarer and harder to find when they’re doing annual counts,” she said.
“Extreme weather events will become more severe, summers will be longer and hotter and drier, and the risk of bushfires obviously increases with that.”
Mr Tozer said council was likely to respond strategically and cautiously to any apparent risks as a result of climate change based on “informed advice”, rather than on strike action.
“However, I think it’s important all levels of government listen when citizens act in a way that brings attention to an issue they care about,” he said.
For more information about School Strike 4 Climate, visit www.schoolstrike4climate.com.