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Young Australians Demand Stronger Climate Action

FILE - Firefighters battle a wildfire at Wooroloo, near Perth, Australia, Feb. 1, 2021.
FILE - Firefighters battle a wildfire at Wooroloo, near Perth, Australia, Feb. 1, 2021.

Thousands of students and schoolchildren are expected to attend dozens of rallies in Australia on Friday demanding urgent action on climate change.

SchoolStrike4Climate activists in Australia say the global warming crisis “is a time-bomb,” and about 40 protests have been organized across the country. They are being joined by Indigenous communities, trade unions and many parents. In the states of New South Wales and Victoria, events are being held online because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Campaigners are demanding Australia abandon new coal, oil and gas projects.

The SchoolStrike4Climate group was set up in 2018.

One of its organizers, 17-year-old Natasha Abhayawickrama, says urgent action is needed.

“Students and young people have had enough and we need net zero by 2035, and we need to have, like, a just transition towards renewable energy,” she said. “We need to stop funding fossil fuels. That is the main message and what we are demanding is essentially the bare minimum. This isn’t a luxury. A safe future and a safe climate is not a luxury. It is the bare minimum that we as young people deserve.”

This week, Australia’s center-right government is meeting to discuss a net zero-emissions policy. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has yet to commit to a deadline to achieve carbon-neutrality. He has said he wants to achieve it "as soon as possible," but he has not outlined any measures to do so.

There are deep divisions within his coalition government. Some lawmakers are staunch supporters of the fossil fuel industry. Australia is one of the world’s major exporters of coal, which generates about 70% of domestic electricity supplies.

Conservationists argue, however, that Australia has the capacity to be a green energy superpower. Every day, 1,000 rooftop solar systems are installed across the suburbs of its towns and cities. Nowhere else in the world is the uptake so high.

On a far grander scale, the world’s biggest solar farm, in Australia's Northern Territory, is expected to create thousands of jobs and generate billions of dollars in revenue.

There will be electricity to export – it plans to supply 15% of Singapore’s power needs starting in 2027.