A year ago, Greta Thunberg, the now-16-year-old climate activist, stopped going to school in order to stand outside Swedish Parliament and protest the lack of climate action. She inspired youth climate strikes around the world—including a massive strike planned for September 20. Today, a coalition of American youth climate activists who are planning that strike released a list of their policy demands, hours before Democratic presidential candidates appear in back-to-back town halls focused on climate change.
“Too often, we think about solutions in a very small-minded way, inside the box,” says Katie Eder, a 19-year-old youth leader who heads a group called Future Coalition. “We don’t have time to stay in the box. We really need to be more innovative with our solutions and ask for what we need, not what we think could be possible or has been possible in the past.” The coalition spent weeks coming to a consensus on its list of demands:
- A Green New Deal: Building on “the” Green New Deal resolution in Congress, this calls for transforming the economy to 100% renewable energy by 2030, while creating jobs and ending leases and permits for fossil fuel projects.
- Respect for indigenous land and sovereignty: Honoring treaties protecting indigenous land by ending resource extraction in and affecting those areas.
- Environmental justice: Investing in the communities affected most by poverty and pollution.
- Protecting biodiversity: Protecting and restoring 50% of the world’s lands and oceans and stopping all deforestation by 2030.
- Sustainable agriculture: Investing in regenerative agriculture and ending subsidies for industrial agriculture.
As the impacts of climate change continue to become more obvious—from record-breaking hurricanes to fires in the Amazon—the challenge can seem overwhelming and paralyzing, and the new wave of the climate movement led by youth wants to break that paralysis. “Young people [are] really stepping up and saying, ‘We’re going to be the leaders of this movement, we’re going to demand that we take action, so we have a future,'” says Eder. “And that’s really powerful for people and really effective, because it sort of takes the fear that people have and turns it into hope. It asks people, don’t just fight because you’re afraid of what’s going to happen, but because there’s hope for what we can still do to change it.”