First there were the school students from Flanders, come to Brussels to demonstrate in favour of demanding more action from the government against climate change. The first march brought some 3,000 students to the streets of the capital, but it was enough to get them a reception from the Flemish government as well as the new minister for energy. A week later, they were joined by students from schools in French-speaking Belgium, and their numbers grew to somewhere between 12,500 and 14,000.
Today, as the third Youth for Climate march takes place, the younger demonstrators will be joined by students from universities and university colleges. The numbers can only be guessed at for the time being, since we are in the middle of an exam period for those students, but one thing is sure: there will be more of them than ever.
“It may be that the turn-out of students is not all that numerous, because many have exams. But we want to make it clear that “youth” applies equally to students as to school students,” said Laura Cools, who started the higher education students’ movement.
The students will also hold their own marches on 7 and 14 February. In Leuven on 14 February some 10,000 school students are expected for a local demonstration.
In the meantime, this Sunday, the grown-ups get in on the act. To be fair, Rise for Climate did organise marches back in September – November last year, and a major demonstration in December (photo). They will take to the streets again on 27 January – this coming Sunday, and the group’s Facebook page indicates that 23,000 people intend to take part, with a further 73,000 “interested”.
“The objective of the march is to challenge the Belgian government as well as the heads of state and government who will attend the European Council summit in Brussels on 21 and 22 March,” said Larry Moffett, one of the organisers “The march participants will call on them to meet the target of a 65% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.”
“A massive mobilisation once in a while, like that of 2 December, is clearly not enough” said Marie Hayens of Rise for Climate. “So we will be pressuring continuously and also outside Brussels. Our mobilisations may not be as large, but they will be more insistent.”
“The stakes are huge” adds colleague Gaetano Boutcher. “By 2050, we expect between 250 million and one billion climate refugees who will likely be the first victims of the mass extinction of which many scientists are warning.”
Sunday’s march begins at Gare du Nord at 1400. Demonstrations will take place at the same time in Mons, and in Liege on 4 February.