The UK schools minister has attacked students for taking one day off class to take part in what could be the world’s biggest-ever climate strike.
Tory Nick Gibb hit out as millions are expected to take to the streets from Australia to the UK ahead of a crucial UN Climate Action Summit next week.
In Australia alone an estimated 300,000 people gathered at more than 100 rallies with further demonstrations held across parts of Asia.
Yet despite claiming he “shares young people’s passion”, Mr Gibb said “even one day” of school was too much to miss to protest about climate change.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We share the passion, as a Government, of young people for tackling climate change, and that is why this Government and this country is committed to reaching net zero greenhouse gases by 2050.
“But we don’t think it should be at the expense of a child’s education because what we want is for the next generation to be as well educated as possible to tackle these kinds of problems.
“And you don’t do that by missing out on an education.
“And even one extra day of lost schooling can affect a child’s GCSE results and their future.”
The protests are part of a snowballing movement sparked by teenage activist Greta Thunberg’s school strikes outside the Swedish parliament.
Children and young people across the UK are preparing to walk out of lessons and lectures, with hundreds of thousands of workers expected to join them.
But another Tory minister, business, energy and clean growth chief Kwasi Kwarteng, said he could not endorse children leaving school to take part.
He told BBC Breakfast: “Their voices are being heard.
“What I do support is their energy, their creativity, and the fact that they have completely mastered these issues and take them very seriously.
“I am not going to endorse people leaving school because I think education, time spent in school, is incredibly important.”
The Labour leader will say: “To the young people leading by example today here and across the world, I want to say thank you.
“Thank you for educating us about the climate crisis and the emergency of species extinction and biodiversity loss.
“I know the situation can look bleak. We have a prime minister that has called global warming a ‘primitive fear without foundation’.
“The US President is a full-blown climate denier, putting our planet in danger by pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement. And the Amazon is on fire, looted by big corporations with a Brazilian president watching on who doesn’t care.
“But when we see young people demanding urgent action, it’s an inspiration.”
Labour today announced plans to cut the NHS’s carbon emissions to net zero – including by planting a million trees, putting solar panels on hospital rooves and replacing out-of-date vehicles and heating systems.
But the party failed to put a date on the commitment, saying only it is an “ambition” for some point in the future.
And Labour is set for a row at its conference this weekend over grassroots plans for a ‘Green New Deal’ that would commit to national net zero emissions by 2030.
Key figures around the Labour leadership are resisting adopting the push – led by left-wing group Momentum – in full, with John McDonnell being advised a 2030 target is not realistic, HuffPost UK reported.
The government’s current target is to cut emissions to net zero by 2050.