March 23, 2019
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New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern backs students' climate change strike

Sydney, Australia, Mar 13 (efe-epa).- New Zealand's prime minister Wednesday urged students of the country not to underestimate the power of their voice ahead of a nationwide youth strike to call for action against climate change.

Jacinda Ardern met a group of 130 students at Wellington College who are supporting the Friday demonstration happening in conjunction with global strikes inspired by the movement started by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. The event was broadcast live on social media.

"Don't underestimate the power of your voice,” said the prime minister on stage, flanked by student activists Sophie Handford and Molly Doyle, student host Jesse Richardson and Climate Change Minister James Shaw.

"I think too often we make this assessment that in order to have an impact, you have to be of voting age. That is just not the case … Keep challenging all of us with the work that you’re doing," the 38-year-old leader added.

Ardern discussed the government’s role in combating climate change and took questions from the students as well as from those watching the live broadcast.

When asked what New Zealand was doing not just at home, but in helping keep other nations accountable, she said that as a small, remote country with a small population base that is “not seen as an economic powerhouse,” the government is “constantly looking for ways that we can make sure we’re elevating issues of importance to us” but listed the United Nations and the World Trade Organization as places that provide equal opportunity to be heard.

“We actually have a bit of a fight, not just to make sure these issues are being heard there, but for the institutions themselves. Because we do have a bit of a movement around isolationism – some countries just choosing to go it alone – and on climate change, if anyone goes it alone, it is at all of our peril,” she said.

“We need to use our voice for us, but for all of our Pacific neighbors too.”

Ardern also discussed ways to make electric vehicles affordable for all, and said the government has invested NZ$1 million into stimulating research and development around hydrogen as an alternative fuel, which she described as having “really exciting potential.”

“My disappointment is that (climate change) has constantly been framed as something that only comes at a cost. The cost comes if we do nothing,” she said.

On Friday, students all over the world are planning to skip school and take part in a strike to demand climate change action from their governments.

"For over 50 years we have known that climate breakdown poses an existential threat to life on Earth," said a petition by event organizers SchoolStrike4Climate NZ.

"We have known that we cannot afford to keep burning fossil fuels, and depleting our oceans, rivers, forests and land. And yet we have continued to do just that. Soon we will inherit the consequences of this inaction, and we are scared," it added.

“We, the youth, have started to move. Together, we are going to change the fate of humanity, regardless of the resistance we encounter. United we will rise on the 15th of March. We will continue to do so until we see climate justice. Please work with us, in partnership, for a world that you can be proud to pass on.”

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