It’s been two years since Greta Thunberg started her school strikes, sitting outside the Swedish parliament for two weeks, then every Friday after that to highlight inaction on climate change. Her actions galvanised a global community of young people and started the Fridays for Future movement, with school children across the world demanding that their governments take meaningful action on the climate.
Since that day two years ago, 80 gigatonnes of planet-busting CO2 have been emitted into the atmosphere. Since that day two years ago, very little has changed in terms of government policy.
The emissions drop during the Covid 19 lockdown – up to 17% in some places – showed that stopping carbon-heavy activities such as flying and driving has a vital part to play in mitigating climate change. Yet it also showed that a huge portion of our emissions are built into our society systems.
Some people use this as an argument that our individual choices don’t make a difference – that whatever we do as individuals, we'll only see substantial emissions reductions with a complete overhaul of the system. This is right of course. We desperately need politicians and industry to make the sweeping changes that will enable a low-carbon future. This includes a complete move away from fossil fuels for energy and transport, massive changes in land use that would protect and re-invigorate our natural resources, and much greater regulation in the markets so people and planet are put above profit.
The trouble is, we’ve been waiting for this for decades. And we’re still waiting. Despite movements in the 70s and 80s, despite Extinction Rebellion, despite Greta Thunberg. Our awareness has never been higher, but our inaction stays the same.
As Greta herself said when she sailed to the US rather than get on a plane, “By stopping flying, you send a message that the climate crisis is real.” Our actions are not just about reducing our own emissions, they are about changing the narrative. Now, we have to ask ourselves, what do we want our narrative to be? We can choose our future. But the timescale for change is rapidly decreasing. We have to do it now.
Pledge to take a year off flying here
Read more about how individual change can influence system change here