There is no crisis as global or with such deadly potential as the one facing our climate. The 2020 UN climate report made stark the challenges, noting that a hotter future is now inevitable.
The immediacy of this crisis has been made tragically clear by an increase in violent storms, prolonged droughts, destructive wildfires, and deadly heat waves. Yet only recently have governments and institutions around the world started to show encouraging signs that they are taking the crisis seriously. Much of the credit for that change goes to the youth-powered climate movement.
When our world has faced moments of crisis in the past, new voices have emerged to champion the ideas that define the future. The youth climate movement represents a bold new generation of leaders for this moment and is catalyzing transformative change.
What started with the student fossil fuel divestment movement has evolved into a broad movement for social, economic, and transformative change. Joining together with intergenerational activists and multi-issue progressive movements, youth climate activists are holding governments accountable, defending human rights and democracy, and forcing change at corporations and financial institutions. Led by people as young as 13, they are making unflinching demands that meet the moment.
Groups such as Sunrise Movement have held US politicians’ feet to the fire, demanding adoption of comprehensive and transformative policies, like the Green New Deal, which support workers in a just transition away from a fossil fuel-based economy, advance social and economic equity, provide good jobs, and to invest in regenerative communities. They have demanded that politicians refuse all money from fossil fuel companies, and they have staged bold and compelling protests at the offices of elected officials of all political parties.
Youth-led climate justice coalitions, like Future Coalition and Zero Hour, turned out nearly one million people in the US to strike on September 20, 2019, and worked to engage a historic number of young voters in the 2020 elections. These youth-led groups bridged the new wave of the youth climate justice activists with adult-led organizations and leaders who have been building the movement for decades.
Globally, Fridays for Future inspired millions of students and adults to strike for climate justice across hundreds of countries. Fridays for Future youth activists and their allies have played a catalytic role in pushing European governments to make unprecedented policy changes, creating space for United Nations leaders to demand faster and more ambitious action from governments around the world, and generating new energy in the Global South around bold climate action.
Wallace Global Fund was an early and enthusiastic backer of many of these groundbreaking movements and coalitions. We believe in the unique power of grassroots movements to create change, and in solutions that are bold and ambitious. We were one of the first major foundation backers of Sunrise Movement, and helped to establish the student-led divestment coalition that gave rise to many of the global youth networks operating today.
“We are prepared to do whatever is necessary to protect our futures,” said Katie Eder, Executive Director of Future Coalition. “We will stop going to school. We will stop going to work. We refuse to participate in a society and economy that is actively destroying our generation’s chance at a livable future.”