A key message at Surrey’s climate strike was to take action and “move as quickly as possible on this.”
More than 100 people of all ages turned out to Surrey’s Global Climate Strike at Holland Park Friday afternoon (Sept. 20).
Surrey’s Global Climate Strike marked the start of an initiative to ask the City of Surrey to “declare a climate emergency and commit IPCC targets for city-wide greenhouse gas emissions,” according to a news release from Surrey for Future.
Surrey for Future, according to the release, is a grassroots organization of Surrey residents advocating for urgent climate action.
“We have been organizing climate strikes since May and are working with other local environmental groups to ask the City of Surrey to join the growing list of lower mainland municipalities that have declared climate emergencies and committed to IPCC targets for greenhouse gas emissions,” the release reads.
Allison Richardson of Surrey for Future asked the adults to “not ask the youth to save the world.”
“Many of the youth strikers are not even old enough to vote. They are not yet in positions of power with the ability to make decisions on behalf of society,” she said. “They are telling us adults that change is needed, but adults are the ones that must step up and do the work needed to reduce global emissions, create a just transition to a clean energy world and protect the lives and rights of Indigenous peoples and those who will be most affected by the climate crisis.”
She said the work to address climate change includes, but not limited to, voting for climate, writing letters to government, attending meetings and strikes and lobbying employers to become carbon neutral.
“In short, give yourself permission to treat the climate crisis like the emergency that it is and take action.”
Following the event, Richardson told the Now-Leader that the climate crisis is the “biggest problem we face globally.”
“We need everybody to do their part to move as quickly as possible on this. In addition to all the problems that it causes, it makes all the existing problems way worse and way more challenging,” she said.
“Individual change is important, but at this point, we need systemic change; urgent, fast, systemic change to avert the worst of the climate crisis.”
Surrey for Future, Richardson said, was also asking people to come to the next council meeting on Oct. 7 and to bring their signs. She said the plan is to stay for the first part of the council meeting and then to get together after and “discuss strategy.”
At the Sept. 16 Surrey city council meeting, a reporter asked Councillor Steven Pettigrew if he could see Surrey declaring a climate emergency.
He said it would be wonderful to see that.
“I think we as a council need to understand what that actually means, what does a climate emergency mean, and if there is a climate emergency, what steps does that invoke, what sort of actions does that involve,” Pettigrew said. “I’ve got a pretty good knowledge of that, and what we need to do. I think it’s something we can definitely move forward. I would encourage my fellow councillors to at least learn about it. It’s exciting times.”
During the same meeting, a small climate emergency protest (organized by Surrey for Future) was being held outside city hall.
Asked if Surrey for Future has a plan to speak as a delegation at a future council meeting to ask the city to declare a climate emergency, Richardson said that is the plan “when we feel the time is right to ask for a vote.” She said the organizers hope that will be in early November.
The Climate Strike at Surrey’s Holland Park was part of Fridays for Future, which was started by Swedish teen Greta Thunberg in August of 2018.
Thunberg, 16, sat in front of the Swedish parliament every school day for three weeks to protest the lack of action on climate change.
According to fridaysforfuture.ca, the first climate strike in solidarity with Thunberg in the Americas happened in Canada on Nov. 2, 2018. There were nine youth groups striking.
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) September 16, 2018