School pupils to 'strike' as climate change protesters plan Leeds march and 'die in'

School students with their banners on the Town Hall steps in Leeds at the Youth Strike for Climate strike in March.
School students with their banners on the Town Hall steps in Leeds at the Youth Strike for Climate strike in March.
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School pupils and young people are set to 'strike on Friday as climate change protesters plan a march and 'die in' in Leeds city centre.

YouthStrike4Climate (YS4C) Leeds will march through the city to protest against the 'dangerous and almost unbelievable continuation of the norm' after Leeds Council declared a climate emergency in March.

-> Hundreds of children miss school in Leeds for Youth Strike 4 Climate at Town Hall
Campaigners say the council's actions represented a 'watershed' moment in the city's battle against climate change - but argue that subsequent decisions by the authority show that 'not enough has changed'.

They say the council's backing of the Leeds Bradford airport expansion, more cash for roads, plans for more parking space at Kirkgate Market and plans to cut down trees at Lawnswood roundabout show they are not fully committed to tackling climate change.

A YS4C Leeds spokeswoman said: "This is as dangerous as it is saddening. It is a breakdown of democracy as much as it is a breakdown of climate ambition.

"There has been no citywide conversations on whether the people - the ones who for in their thousands pushed for the declaration to happen - want any of these developments to go ahead.

"These have been imposed on us, and have already faced a backlash by community groups in our city."

-> Leeds Council to declare climate emergency in the city
A report by the World Health Organisation shows that Leeds is one of 31 towns and cities in the UK that have unsafe levels of air pollution.

Neville Street in the city centre is the most polluted street outside of London, according to Friends of the Earth.

Several strikes involving YS4C have already taken place in Leeds. Friday's march coincides with strikes by young people across the world.

The spokeswoman added: "Seven hundred people are already dying prematurely each and every year in Leeds due to health problems related to poor air quality.

"£4.8 million is already spent by our local NHS services to deal with these conditions."

The 'die in' will be a 'symbolic representation of the 700 people currently dying prematurely because of the continuation of these policies', the spokeswoman said.

Friday's march will leave Millenium Square at 11.45am and will return at 1pm.

The spokeswoman added: "We invite and strongly encourage councillors and MPs that are supportive of a re-prioritisation of objectives away from these matters to attend.

"The public need to see that you are taking their future and the value of their lives seriously.

"You are our democratic representatives and this is your job. "

Climate change campaigners Extinction Rebellion blocked roads at the start of this month.

YouthStrike4Climate Leeds said that while they 'do not endorse the road block activities', they do 'respect and appreciate that they brought media coverage to this issue, and demonstrate the cross group concern' about climate change.

-> Extinction Rebellion campaigners plan to block these roads in Leeds city centre on Friday

Cllr James Lewis, the council's former Executive Board Member for Resources and Sustainability, said at the start of May: “Leeds City Council recognises that tackling climate change is an unprecedented and urgent global challenge.

"Since declaring a climate emergency in March, this council has already agreed on independent, science-based emissions targets and a roadmap for the city.

“Despite stretched council budgets we are continuing to work hard towards a cleaner and greener Leeds, for example by investing in ultra-low emission vehicles, better home insulation, low energy street lighting and the planned Clean Air Charging Zone.

“We are committed to making Leeds a carbon-neutral city."