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UK climate protest: Student walk out inspired by Greta Thunberg

Story highlights
  • More than 10,000 people took part in protests across the UK
  • The strikes were inspired by Swedish teenager who has berated world leaders for climate inaction
  • "There is the need for urgent and radical climate action," organizers told CNN

(CNN) Thousands of school students walked out of classrooms across the UK on Friday to join a national climate change protest.

The protest, called Youth Strike 4 Climate, took place in more than 60 British cities and towns from Cornwall to the Scottish Highlands.

Waving banners which read "if you do not act as adults, we will" and "the dinosaurs thought they had time too", thousands of students gathered in front of the Houses of Parliament in London.

The aim of the strike was to raise awareness of the growing threats of climate change and urge the UK government to declare a climate emergency, organizers of the protest told CNN.

Jake Woodier of the UK Youth Climate Coalition, who helped coordinate the strikes, said that more than 10,000 people across the UK took part in the protests.

"I think the key message out of it is young people and students are demonstrating to those in power that there is the need for urgent and radical climate action," he told CNN.

Read: What is climate change? Your questions answered

17-year-old Sophie Sleeman, who helped organize a strike in Exeter, Devon, told CNN that her school told her to call off the strike, but that she went ahead as she believes "the education system, the media and government aren't doing enough to tackle climate change or portray its severity to us."

"I am feeling an incredible sense of solidarity with everyone protesting. I feel like I am implementing change," she said, adding that more than a 1,000 people took part in the Exeter march.

Ann Pettifor, who in 2008 co-authored the Green New Deal, a 10-year plan to phase out fossil fuels recently unveiled by Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, attended the strike in London with her seven-year-old grandson.

"These children are going to grow up into radical adults demanding and probably implementing change. We can't underestimate what an impact a demonstration like this has on young people," Pettifor told CNN.

"We urgently need to get the adults as angry as the young people are. Wildfires, floods and destruction of the environment seems to be the only thing that stirs people and that is a very big problem," she added.

Read: Fighting climate change may be easier than we think

The UK strikes are the latest student-led protests against climate inaction.

Inspired by teenager Greta Thunberg's weekly sit-ins outside the Swedish parliament to raise awareness of the crisis, school students in Europe, Australia and the United States have held climate strikes.

The strikes come in the wake of a UN report which warns that unprecedented global action is needed to limit global temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

16-year-old Thunberg took the world by storm when she berated world leaders at the UN climate summit and billionaires at Davos for their insufficient efforts to curb emissions in line with goals set out under the 2015 Paris Agreement.

"I told them that they belong to that group of people who are most responsible and that the future of humankind rests in their hands, and they didn't know how to react," Thunberg told CNN after she addressed Davos elite, including Bono and former Goldman Sachs President Gary Cohn.

A global school walkout, involving students from more than 40 countries, is planned for March 15.

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