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Climate protests: Poll finds public back striking pupils

Conservative MPs voice support for pupils ahead of today's second day of walkouts in UK schools

TES children climate change

Conservative MPs voice support for pupils ahead of today's second day of walkouts in UK schools

The UK public supports pupils walking out of the classroom to call for more climate action, a poll suggests ahead of a global youth strike on the issue.

Among those questioned by Opinium for the Conservative Environment Network, 53 per cent supported pupils leaving lessons to demonstrate, with just 15 per cent opposed.

Among those aged 18-34 backing was even stronger at 60 per cent.

There is also significant public support for cutting the UK's greenhouse gas emissions to zero as soon as possible, the poll suggested.

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The survey's findings came as organisers of the Youth Strike 4 Climate said events will take place in more than 100 towns and cities from Penzance to Aberdeen today, in the UK’s second walkout for climate action.

The strikes are driven by what organisers say is "an alarming lack of government leadership on climate action" and are part of a global day of action in more than 100 countries.

They have been inspired by teenager Greta Thunberg, who protests every Friday outside Sweden's parliament to urge leaders to tackle climate change.

Organisers here say they expect attendances to be larger than the first UK strike on 15 February, which saw thousands of pupils defy head teachers and politicians to ditch lessons for demonstrations.

Half of the 2,000 UK adults questioned thought the government was not doing enough to stop climate change and 70 per cent thought it important the government reduces greenhouse gas emissions to zero as soon as possible.

There was praise from some Conservative MPs for the strike ahead of the latest action.

Richard Benyon, MP for Newbury said: “The extraordinary passion of the school strikers is inspirational.

“These are young people whose lives will be much more affected by climate change than the generations leaving them this legacy.”

Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park, said: "Heat records are being made, ecosystems are undergoing extraordinarily rapid changes, lands are becoming harder to farm, and the spectre of a global refugee crisis is looming."

Mr Goldsmith called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on the difference in curbing emissions to 1.5C rather than 2C “dramatic".

He said: "In this light, it seems absurd and mean-minded to admonish children for missing school to ring the alarm bells.”

Simon Clarke, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, said he had led the charge in Parliament for the UK to reach net zero emissions before 2050 and had gained cross-party support for the move, adding "This polling shows that a net zero target is not just necessary but hugely popular, and not just within Parliament – over 70 per cent of British people support us in our argument."

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