On March 15th this year, thousands of students across the globe are striking from school to demand more recognition of the issue of climate change and rising global temperatures. What started as a one-person-movement in Sweden has morphed into a global movement for change, with young people at the forefront. TEARAWAY had a chat with Sophie Handford, the eighteen-year-old New Zealand coordinator of School Strike 4 Climate.

What is the movement?

Thousands of school students from New Zealand and the world will be going on strike from school on March 15th to demand urgent action on Climate Change. Some will strike outside their local MPs office, while others outside Parliament and in Aotea Square.

Where did it originate?

Last year, a 16-year-old from Sweden began striking outside her parliament, demanding that they reduce carbon emissions as per the Paris Agreement. Seeing the youth movement spread through Europe and Australia, mobilising tens of thousands of young people, inspired us because it shows the power of youth acting together. Together, we can lead change and take control of the conversation around our future. Together we will demand that our leaders treat this as the crisis it is and stop playing political ping-pong with our future.

Why is climate change such a big issue?

Climate change is such a big issue because we want a future on this earth and a chance for our children to have that too. Climate change has an effect on so many other issues and action is needed now to ensure we are able to change paths to one which ends in a safe climate future.

Organisers of School Strike 4 Climate NZ speaking to TVNZ’s Breakfast. Facebook/SchoolStrike4ClimateNZ

What is the goal?

We demand that the New Zealand Government do more now to hold global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. In our country, this could look like:

● Passing an ambitious and effective Zero Carbon Act that gives New Zealand a coherent long term plan to get to carbon neutrality by 2050.

● Keeping the effect of global warming and its consequences for all living things on this planet in mind when making decisions for the future;

● The paths to reaching our emission targets being fast-tracked, well planned and transparent so the New Zealand public is aware that progress is being made and can hold the Government to account;

● Ceasing all exploration and extraction of more fossil fuels immediately. We already have more in our reserves than we can afford to burn to avoid catastrophic climate change. We need to invest in renewable energy alternatives now.

● Regulating emissions from agriculture, which account for almost half of our emissions, and for which there is currently no plan.

What has been the response so far?

The response so far has been amazing! We have had so many schools and communities wanting to organise various events. We’ve also had lots of offers of support from the general public which we are extremely grateful for.

How can people get involved?

People can get involved by striking and attending or organising events in their area. Check out the current strike map on the School Strike 4 Climate NZ Facebook page to see where events are happening on March 15th. People can also sign up to the mailing list on our website: Parents, teachers, and adults are welcome to attend and support the movement led by primary, secondary and tertiary students.

Where are the strikes taking place?

So far, there are seven confirmed strikes taking place on March 15th. More strikes are being organised and will pop up shortly. You can see these on our Facebook page. The confirmed strikes are:

  • Russell, Russel School, 8:45am
  • Auckland, Aotea Sqaure, 12pm
  • Kapiti, Kapiti Coast District Council, 9am
  • Wellington, Parliament Buildings, 10am
  • Nelson, Church Hill, 12:30pm
  • Christchurch, Cathedral Square, 1pm
  • Dunedin, The Octagon, 12pm



ETHAN GRIFFITHS is Tearaway’s Political Editor. Young, passionate and a wannabe babysitter for Neve Ardern, Ethan won’t stop talking about politics. Likes a bit of cricket, wearing trendy ties and is in love with Jeff the purple wiggle.