From humble beginnings in Sweden last year, when 15-year-old Greta Thunberg campaigned alone outside the Riksdag, to a movement which has now seen over half a million children take to the streets all around the world, both these campaigns highlight the immediate need for action on climate change.
Here in the Highlands this week we have seen strikes organised, with two such events at Glenurquhart High School and Nairn Town Hall. Both of these events were organised by the students themselves and, despite less than ideal weather, both were well attended. These coincided with a much larger event which took part outside the much sunnier Scottish Parliament.
While some have chosen to criticise the events and those taking part, with UK Prime Minister Theresa May referring to the strikes as “wasting lesson time”, I want to make clear that I stand behind our local authorities who have decided to allow students to participate without punishment. Political engagement has no age boundaries, and as climate change affects everyone, it is only right that students and children have the opportunity to fight for a sustainable future.
Increasing temperatures, rising sea levels and extreme droughts should give cause for thought to all and I fully support and admire those students across the Highlands, and those much further afield, who have taken part, or will take part, in school strikes for climate.
I have long supported initiatives and policies which aim to reduce our carbon footprint and curb the effects of climate change, including Carbon Capture and Storage, which is essential whilst we transition from oil and gas. As Leader of the Highland Council in 2014 I launched the Carbon CLEVER initiative and as an MP in the UK Parliament, I continue to work to see new ways to tackle this issue and to support motions to mitigate climate change.
A recent UN report suggests we have only 12 years left to cut fossil fuels and act responsibly on climate change. Given this rather eye-opening fact, I say it’s time for us to support the next generation and do our best to ensure a green, renewable and sustainable future.