As school students protest against climate change, Russell Jones argues that it's time to follow the youth onto the streets and demand urgent action from our leaders.

If you haven’t been following the events in Davos last week, you may have missed the coverage of Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish activist who is behind the School Strikes 4 Climate Action campaign.

We’ve mentioned Greta previously on The Hub as she is part of a growing campaign by students to speak ‘truth to power’ and get world leaders and businesses to urgently face the crises in global emissions.

She made a passionate, yet simple video in which she urges the powerful to ‘panic’ about climate change and join her and thousands of others in “being on the right side of history”, as there are estimated to be just 12 years to reverse the trend of rising temperatures on our planet.

The world’s scientists are warning that we need a dramatic ramping up of global action to cut carbon emissions, otherwise we face a potential rise in temperatures of more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, with severe consequences for the whole of humanity.

“We need to hold the older generations accountable for the mess they have created, and expect us to live with,” Thunberg is quoted as saying. “It is not fair that we have to pay for what they have caused.”

The reality of climate change is rapidly seeping into the public psyche.

Russell Jones Russell Jones Content and communications manager

On strike for climate action

Greta Thunberg has been going on strike every Friday since September outside the Swedish parliament and now other students and children are joining her all around the world.

Having already addressed the UN Climate Change COP 24 conference, Thunberg has rapidly become the voice for a generation who are demanding urgent action to slow the rise in global temperatures.

Last week saw huge demonstrations across Europe, with over 30,000 school students out on the streets of Belgium and tens of thousands more taking to the streets of around 50 German cities such as Berlin, and 15 towns and cities in Switzerland.

These students are demanding to be heard and calling for businesses to put aside short term interests and profit to help solve the problem.

So far the UK has seen a small number of students striking, such as the 13-year-old Holly Gillibrand in Fort William. However, there are now plans for a big strike on 15 February and these are set to join youth-led protests in many locations.

Climate emergency

The shockingly scarey reality of climate change is rapidly seeping into the public psyche.

Last week, the BBC reported on the small Welsh market town of Machynlleth which has declared a 'climate emergency'.

Machynlleth is following more than 20 cities in England and around the world, including London and a Melbourne local authority that have also recognised the need for urgent action.

The Machynlleth town council, which backed the decision unanimously, is looking at ways to become carbon zero, such as improving the energy efficiency of buildings and creating an electric car club.

Well, what can business do?

Here at Mitsubishi Electric, we take our responsibility very seriously, and this is a major part of why we have dedicated this blog site to providing useful information for anyone to share and learn from. 

As a corporation, we have also just been named to CDP’s Climate and Water ‘A Lists’ for the third year running.

CDP, a not-for-profit organization working to enhance global disclosure, encourages companies and cities to manage their environmental impacts responsibly. CDP has recognised the environmental focus of Mitsubishi Electric’s business activities and goals as well as the company’s timely and appropriate information disclosure.

Under our Environmental Vision 2021 plan (focused on realising low-carbon societies, recycling-based societies and increased respect for biodiversity), we have strengthened our environmental management foundations, promoting environmental initiatives to become a “global, leading green company.”

Mitsubishi Electric also has a long-term environmental vision for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) over the next 10 to 30 years.

So, what can you do?

Whilst we do need business leaders and politicians to commit to “real and bold climate action”, as Thunberg says, there are things we can all do to play our part in making a difference.

We’ve focused here on The Hub before about recycling, reducing energy, and even how reducing your meat intake can all make a difference, both to your health and wellbeing, but also collectively to global emissions.

As we are currently facing a cold, cold winter, it is also worth looking at ways of reducing energy in your own home, as well as in your workplace.

Checking levels of insulation in your loft, making sure that any draughts are dealt with by installing thick curtains, and even wearing warm clothes indoors instead of turning up the thermostat can all make a difference.

Go renewable

It is also worth looking at how you heat your home as it is now clear that we cannot rely on gas and oil heating for much longer.

Investing in renewable heating, such as an air source heat pump is currently more expensive than replacing your gas boiler but very comparable to replacing an oil system, so that could be a move that would make a difference. 

Fitting an MSC-approved system will earn 7 years of government incentive payments that are likely to deliver a better return than any of the current interest rates offered by the banks. 

The added benefit of course is that it will also reduce the payback period for a heat pump and help cut your household energy bills (and emissions!).

Final thoughts

So, whoever you are and wherever you live, there are things you can do to make a difference, and boy do we need to make that difference quickly.

Perhaps if nothing else, you can look at what is being organised for February 15th in your local area and support any student strikes to increase the number attending.

As the headline says “time to get out your marching shoes”.

Russell Jones is content and communications manager for Mitsubishi Electric's Living Environment Systems in the UK