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Youth climate activists are back with new, sharper demands for countries and corporations

Youth climate activists are back with new, sharper demands for countries and corporations

The Fridays for Future movement returned to spotlight a dangerous shortfall in climate action.

On Friday, Filipino youth activists stood outside a gleaming office tower with a giant, game show-style check. On it was the amount of financing the multinational bank Standard Chartered has provided to coal companies in the country since 2018, stamped red with the word “canceled.”

This protest outside the bank’s Manila offices was one of hundreds held in 68 countries on March 19, organized by Fridays for Future, the youth climate activism movement started by Greta Thunberg, an 18-year-old Swede. This time, kids, teens, and adults showed up on the streets and on screens to call out world powers’ “empty promises” to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

In recent months, the activists have persevered through quarantines and Zoom fatigue, and while Friday’s turnout didn’t come close to the 4 million who participated in the massive September 20, 2019 climate strike, the strong coordinated effort suggested they are still a force to be reckoned with.

In the last year, a spate of nations including China, Japan, and South Korea have set net-zero emissions targets — often for 2050 or beyond. Corporations, including Standard Chartered, have also made their own pledges. While some of these goals are aligned with the Paris agreement, they are only goals. Currently, global emissions are surging back after dropping last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and many governments and institutions continue to plow money into fossil fuel projects.

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