COP26 in Glasgow: Climate school strikes like the one led by Greta Thunberg today have Scottish Labour's full support – Monica Lennon MSP

If there’s an official playlist for COP26, Whitney Houston belting out “I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way” should be ringing in world leaders’ ears.

School strikes calling for more action on climate change have become a global movement  (Picture: Marijn de Keyzer/Belga Mag/AFP via Getty Images)
School strikes calling for more action on climate change have become a global movement  (Picture: Marijn de Keyzer/Belga Mag/AFP via Getty Images)
School strikes calling for more action on climate change have become a global movement (Picture: Marijn de Keyzer/Belga Mag/AFP via Getty Images)

That was the background music as I prepared for a Central Scotland climate surgery tour with children and young people. Today’s youth know they will have to live with the consequences of climate change, and every day of inaction is harming their future.

That’s why I was so delighted to sign-up for The Moment, a brilliant initiative pioneered by the Children’s Parliament that puts children and young people at the heart of decisions about the climate emergency.

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I wrote to every school in my parliamentary region inviting them to take part and the response was overwhelming. My pre-COP26 tour of schools, blending classroom visits with online events, resulted in over 1,100 pupils taking part and I learned something new from every group I interacted with.

We are so fortunate to have brilliant teachers, doing their best in under-resourced circumstances, teaching our young people well and empowering them to lead the way.

One highlight was concluding the national day of action last Friday with a return to my old school, St John Ogilvie High in Hamilton. One of the S3 pupils asked a question that made me pause for thought: “Should young people be allowed to miss school to protest at the Glasgow climate strike?”

It struck me that schools have been left with little guidance on this and an opportunity has been missed to ensure that school pupils can engage in the climate strikes, even if that means doing something in their own communities.

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As Scottish Labour’s spokesperson on Net Zero, Energy and Transport, I have spent the last few months scrutinising Scottish government’s net-zero plans and standing up for my constituents in the face of public transport cuts, the ongoing threat of incinerators being built near our communities, and the lack of investment in green jobs.

With the Institute For The Future estimating in 2017 that 85 per cent of the jobs that those in education would be doing in 2030 hadn’t been invented, we must be equipping young people with transferable skills and a future-proofed education that they can develop throughout their lives.

And equality must be at the heart of this. In the UK last year women held only five per cent of technology leadership positions.

From Airth Primary to Larkhall Academy, young people know we can’t keep 1.5 degrees alive without massive system change. Greta Thunberg will lead the youth climate march from Kelvingrove Park to George Square today, joined by thousands demanding that system change.

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When I marched with striking young people in Glasgow this summer, their frustration and sense of betrayal were palpable. Stop Cambo oilfield echoed in their chants. To them, the idea that a government might approve a new 25-year drilling contract when we face “code red for humanity” is deeply unjust. I agree and will continue to fight it.

Whether marching in Glasgow or staging school strikes where they live, it’s imperative that young people are heard above the distant noise of world leaders leaving in their private jets. They have the full support and solidarity of Scottish Labour.

Monica Lennon is Labour MSP for Central Scotland

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