Closed Climate strike: ‘Change is coming whether you like it or not’, Greta Thunberg

Sixteen year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg takes part in a demonstration as part of the Global Climate Strike in Manhattan in New York

FT reporters around the world cover Friday’s climate strikes.

Good morning

Welcome to the FT’s latest live blog.

Millions of protesters across the globe are set to take to the streets today for climate strikes demanding world leaders take action on global warming.

We will be covering the strikes live in this blog, with FT correspondents providing news and analysis on developments across the world, as they happen.

Germany pens package that includes carbon plan plus electric car support

It has been a sleepless night in Berlin for Angela Merkel and senior leaders of Germany’s government coalition, as they struggle to put the finishing touches to a keenly awaited package of climate measures for Europe’s largest economy, writes Tobias Buck in Berlin.

The meeting started on Thursday evening and continued through to Friday morning, with results expected to be presented at a press briefing at 2.30pm local time.

“The negotiations are on the final lap,” Andreas Jung, a member of parliament for Ms Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, told German television early on Friday.

At the heart of the climate package is a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by imposing a price on carbon. Though details have yet to be confirmed, the government is expected to introduce a national emissions trading system that would apply to emissions coming from the transport sector and from buildings. Neither is currently covered by the Europe-wide emissions trading regime, which applies to heavy industry and the energy sector.

In practice, this would mean that companies selling petrol, gas and heating oil would have to buy certificates to cover the emissions from their products – with the government expected to set both a minimum and a maximum price.

The package is also expected to include support for electric vehicles, financial incentives for owners ready to make their homes more climate friendly and more funds for the German rail service. The government will try to accelerate the expansion of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, which are supposed to account for 65 per cent of German electricity generation by 2030.

Ms Merkel and her government have been under intense political pressure to step up their efforts in the fight against climate change in recent years, amid growing evidence that German voters see the issue as pivotal.

A poll released by the ARD television channel on Friday showed that 63 per cent of German voters said they saw climate change policy as a greater political priority than economic growth. That sentiment has also been reflected in the recent electoral success of Germany’s Greens party, which is polling at more than 20 per cent and has gradually eclipsed the Social Democrats as the leading party of the German left.

What is planned today?

The organisers are hoping thousands of workers around the world will walk out of their jobs alongside millions of youth protesters.

More than 3,500 demonstrations will take place on Friday ahead of next week’s United Nations climate change summit – led by 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg, who in just over a year has sparked a global movement and been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

This follows the movement ‘Fridays for Future’, which has seen thousands of schoolchildren stage regular walkouts over climate change. Now, they are calling on adults to follow their lead. In their own words:

Going on climate strike means people everywhere walking out of their homes, their offices, their farms, their factories. Everyone is needed to disrupt business as usual: from sports stars, actors and teachers to food industry workers, psychologists, delivery drivers and everything in between. We can all take part, whatever our circumstances, by refusing to accept the status quo.

From the FT archives: Lunch with climate activist Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg tells Lunch with the FT: ‘All my life I’ve been the invisible girl’

More from the archives: Climate resistance and Extinction Rebellion

Extinction Rebellion: inside the new climate resistance

What do you want me to say?

A news bulletin from the year 2050:

The daily index of maximum time allowed outside in Doha or Austin or Manchester – in all these places it is over 50C – if you go outside for more than your allotted hour, then you will die.

Targeted bio weapon takes out Capetown as the statelets of a collapsed South Africa fight for water.

First use of live ammunition to keep the hordes out on the Italian-Swiss border.

In this dramatisation, a collaboration between the FT and The Royal Court, a news report from 30 years into the future asks why we “never really learnt how to talk about this”.

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Check this out: Britain’s National Trust may offer key to unlock charging potential

Stately homes could herald a UK electric motor revolution

Employees pile pressure on businesses to take action

Workers around the world are heeding calls from children and university students to join the thousands of climate change protests today, eliciting mixed responses from businesses that are feeling the pressure.

Many adults are choosing to skip work and join the walkouts to demand that businesses and governments do more to counter climate change, which is forecast to cause widespread devastation and humanitarian crises if it continues at today’s pace.

Some companies, including clothing brand Patagonia and snowboard company Burton, have closed their stores to allow employees to attend the demonstrations, and many others have given workers permission to leave the office.

Others have been more muted in their responses. Employees of big tech companies, including Amazon and Google, were among the most vocal in planning strikes. But their employers’ responses have been lukewarm: Facebook said employees were free to attend the protests, while Microsoft and Google declined to comment. Amazon said workers could use their paid holiday allowance to join the strikes.

“Businesses have a responsibility, like governments and civil society, to get directly involved,” said Ryan Gellert, general manager of Patagonia.

Beyond supporting the walkouts, the company has pledged to be carbon neutral – throughout its entire supply chain – by 2025. Those companies that make a lot of noise about being more environmentally friendly in order to drive sales rather than make wholesale and meaningful changes are not helping, he added.

What are the protesters’ demands?

The core message is simple: “We demand climate justice for everyone.” The movement is calling for:

• A transition away from fossil fuels to 100 per cent renewable energy, by 2030 in the case of developed countries, and an outright ban on fracking and new coal projects.
• Zero contracts for fossil fuel companies to accelerate oil and gas extraction.
• Zero funding for climate denying lobbyists and politicians.
• Zero harm to climate refugees and frontline communities.

“As individuals, we may feel alone in facing climate change. But if we act together – if we act now – we can build a better future,” the organisers say.

They also reject some current possible fixes including carbon capture technology, some carbon trading schemes and the promotion of biomass as a renewable energy. This has raised some eyebrows.

Robert Colvile, director of the conservative Centre for Policy Studies think-tank, has questioned the manifesto in a series of tweets this morning. “This manifesto would make things worse. Because it is not asking ‘What is the most cost-effective way to prevent or protect against climate change?’ – or indeed ‘How do we grow the maximum amount of food, as cheaply as possible, with minimum emissions?’”

The business of climate change

Check out this video from Jonathan Guthrie, head of the FT’s Lex column, for an insight into the impacts of global warming from an investor point of view.

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London calling

About 200 protesters moved to block traffic round Parliament Square in the UK capital, writes Robert Wright in London.

The crowd, carrying flags of the Extinction Rebellion group and leftwing groups such as the Socialist Workers’ Party, stood on the road outside the UK Supreme Court, shouting, “We want change!” and “Climate justice!”

The group walked towards parliament, although a heavy police presence prevented them moving down Whitehall or towards Downing Street, the prime minister’s residence.

Jeremy Corbyn joins the protesters

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is on his way to the main protest in central London, having earlier posted a picture of his local north London demonstration. We haven’t seen any comment from prime minister Boris Johnson yet.

Scenes from London’s Parliament Square

FT correspondent Robert Wright is reporting from London’s Parliament Square on the protests. Here’s what they’re looking like thus far:

A top archive: Flight shaming potentially strikes fear among airlines

Flyskam, or flight shame, encapsulates a no-fly movement that has been spreading across Europe as more people seek ways to travel other than flying as part of an attempt to mitigate the climate impact of air travel. For airlines the sudden take-off of this idea potentially presents a major challenge, the Financial Times reported last month:

Flight shame: can airlines ever reduce their emissions?

Big tech companies announce new green initiatives

Tech giants Google and Amazon rushed to tout their new green initiatives on Thursday, as thousands of people worldwide prepared for Friday’s strikes.

Amazon said it was aiming to achieve zero net emissions by 2040 – finally setting an end date for the goal, something climate activists had long called for – and hoped to be fuelled by 100 per cent renewable energy from 2030. Meanwhile, Google announced it had made the “biggest corporate purchase of renewable energy in history”.

Employees from both companies say this is not enough.

“As long as Amazon uses its power to help oil and gas companies discover and extract more fossil fuel, donates to climate-denying politicians and think tanks, and enables the oppression of climate refugees, employees will keep raising our voices,” said organisers of the Amazon protest.

Google employees have also called for the company to break with fossil fuel companies and deny funding for climate sceptics.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, oil and gas company ExxonMobil promoted adverts on Twitter that pushed back against allegations that it knew about and buried information relating to climate change. The ads, which the company paid to promote on the social media platform, link to an article published on its website in September that describes a “coordinated campaign perpetuated by activist groups with the aim of stigmatising ExxonMobil.”

Crowds grow in Cambridge

Students are gathering outside Kings College in Cambridge, the FT’s John Gapper reports. Local press are reporting hundreds have now assembled.

Here’s how the scene looks at the moment:

Is Brexit holding back clean energy in the UK?

There is always, always a link back to Brexit…

Asked this morning how the Brexit process is affecting government contracts with clean energy companies and clean energy infrastructure, government minister Kwasi Kwarteng told the BBC:

Of course we can do many things at the same time. But what I would say is we’ve got an energy white paper which intends to set out what we intend to do, and that has been delayed by the need to leave the EU in a timely way.

Earlier this year the UK committed to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, which the then-administration claimed to be “one of the most ambitious in the world.” Net zero means any emissions would be offset by schemes such as tree planting or carbon capture.

Londoners march

FT correspondent Robert Wright is in central London:

In the main body of the London march, thousands of protesters – many groups with young children – streamed down Whitehall and over Westminster Bridge past the Houses of Parliament towards a rally in Victoria Tower Gardens.

Protesters carried banners with slogans such as, “The climate is changing; why aren’t we?” and warning that time to reverse climate change was limited. “This will be the coolest year for the next 125 years,” read one sign, referring to the regular breaking of records for the hottest known year.

The march, taking place in bright autumn sunshine, had a good-natured carnival atmosphere, although police, some mounted and wearing riot gear, waited just off the route to guard key buildings such as the Treasury.

Jenny Harrison, who had come to the march from Hackney, in north-east London, said she had come to the march because her daughter, who was accompanying her, was five.

“I want her to have a future,” she said.

Ms Harrison said she felt emotional seeing the scale of the turn-out for the march but accepted that the UK’s political establishment seemed not to be listening.

“But what’s the alternative?” she asked. “I’m not really sure what else to do. I think the political establishment is in a state of denial and everyone else is in a sort of panic because they’re not being listened to.”

Nearby, Andras Bulla had come to the march with his partner and children aged two, four and six from Crofton Park, south-east London.

“They brought us,” Mr Bulla said, gesturing towards the children, who had been given permission to take time off school for the march. “We would like to show that we care about the future, earth’s future.”

Freebies for strikers

All sorts of people and businesses have pledged to take part in the protests. In Germany, bus company FlixBus are offering free rides to protest gatherings, while a bookshop in Australia is offering discounts on books about climate change.

Several other bookshops, including in Edinburgh and Norwich, say they are giving out free copies of Greta Thunberg’s book.

Investors feel the heat on climate risks

Banks and investment houses have clearly woken up to climate risks, both in terms of the threat posed to certain financial assets and the commercial opportunities, writes Katie Martin, the FT’s markets editor.

The big question among CIOs now is ‘who will run Greta Thunberg’s pension’? They are keenly aware that their children and grandchildren will demand a whole new way of saving and investing, and that the finance industry can make a positive difference.

Deutsche Bank is the latest to put a big marker in the issue, coming out this week with a report (which is available to the public) entitled Past the tipping point with customers and stock markets.

Some interesting points:

Small climate change news makes a difference. Companies that are the subject of positive climate change news, and make positive announcements, have seen their stock outperform the MSCI World Index by 0.8 percentage points per year, outperformance of 15 per cent.

The improvement in news and announcements matters the most. No matter what the baseline, greater amounts of positive press and company announcements over the preceding 12 months leads to returns of 1.4 percentage points over the MSCI World index, outperformance of 26 per cent.

Consumers are willing to pay up to go green, and that extends into their investment choices. DB notes:

It is telling that the flow of assets into ESG funds is gathering steam even as those funds underperform. The average ESG fund in Europe (which has the most sophisticated ESG market) has underperformed its benchmark by 1.2 percentage points each year since 2000, and that is before management fees and taxes.

Check out the FT’s Moral Money coverage for much more on all this.

Solomon islanders take to the beach

Students protest on Marovo Island in the Solomon Islands to the east of Papua New Guinea

Mumbai protester turns green

A Fridays for Future protester adds to his green credentials as he marches against governments’ inaction towards climate breakdown and environmental pollution in Mumbai

Berlin buzzing with protesters as government finalises climate measures

Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on Friday as part of the world-wide climate strike, reports the FT’s Tobias Buck.

The rally coincided with a marathon effort by the German government to sign off on a package of measures aimed at reducing carbon emissions in Europe’s largest economy.

German media reported that a deal was reached around midday local time on Friday, after talks between leaders of the coalition government that lasted through the night.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to unveil details of the package at a press conference later in the day.

200m will need aid at a cost of $20bn

On Thursday, the Red Cross predicted 200m people will require aid as a result of disasters prompted by climate change, at a cost of more than $20bn. That’s nearly twice today’s number, and relates only to people who live on less than $10 a day.

The organisation says this is the “cost of doing nothing” – of failing to take action to prevent climate change and of not preparing communities. The 200m figure is a conservative estimate, the Red Cross says.

In a more optimistic scenario, if communities are prepared for the natural disasters that will increase in intensity and frequency as the world warms, the number of people in need of aid globally could be as low as 68m by 2030, and drop to 10m by 2050.

An optimistic scenario also assumes there will be fewer people getting by on less than $10 and a slower rise in the number of people living in places that experience extreme weather.

“We’re calling for more urgent adaptation action like warning systems,” said Julie Arrighi, an advisor at the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre.

If you can’t protest – invest!

Retail investors concerned about climate change are powering a new wave of investment into cutting-edge technological solutions, writes Alice Ross.

From improving energy efficiency to renewable storage solutions to alternative meat, climate change solutions fall under the heading of ESG investing (environmental, social and governance) — which is an increasingly popular investment segment.

Rather than avoiding certain companies, such as tobacco or arms manufacturers — via so-called negative screening — climate change investing tends to be a form of positive screening, in other words actively choosing to invest in companies that are trying to make a difference.

But those who want to recast their investments to address climate change will face a number of decisions over what companies or funds to invest in and how to reduce the risks of narrowing their selection criteria. What counts as a climate-friendly investment strategy? And what returns might investors be sacrificing — or gaining — by the transformation of their portfolio?

To read more on this theme, here’s the link to Alice’s full article which has just been published by FT Money.

Dublin’s schoolchildren shout for change to protect their future

There is an amazing level of energy here already, writes Steve Bird in Dublin, as schoolchildren march bearing their homemade placards along the quays of the river Liffey.

“No one’s allowed to ruin my future but me,” reads one.

Climate action becomes global phenomenon covering thousands of cities

Eric Holthaus, climate enthusiast, calls it the biggest day of climate action in history, with protesters coming together in nearly 3,000 cities and 162 countries.

He tweets:

OECD calls for a ramp up of taxes on dirty fuels

The FT’s Federica Cocco reports

The world’s leading economies need to increase taxes on polluting fuels which are currently too low to encourage a shift to cleaner alternatives, the OECD warned on Friday.

As much as 70 per cent of energy-related CO2 emissions from advanced and emerging economies are “entirely untaxed”, the Paris-based international organisation said. The existing taxes on polluting sources of energy “are not set anywhere near the levels needed to reduce the risks and impacts of climate change and air pollution”.

“We know we need to burn less fossil fuel, but when taxes on the most polluting fuels are zero or close to zero, there is little incentive to change,” the OECD’s secretary-general Angel Gurría said.

“Energy taxes are not the sole solution, but we can’t curb climate change without them. They should be applied fairly and used to improve well-being and ease the energy transition for vulnerable groups,” said Mr Gurría.

Only four countries — Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland — tax non-road emissions at more than €30 per tonne on average, a low-end benchmark of the climate damage caused by a tonne of CO2.

Costa Rica wins prestigious UN environment award

Costa Rica has been awarded the UN’s highest environmental honour, being named “Champion of the Earth” for its commitment to tackling climate change.

The UN said on Friday that the central American country had won the organisation’s flagship environmental award in the policy leadership category, and applauded it for “leading the way to a zero-carbon future.”

The Champions of the Earth award was established in 2005 to celebrate those who do outstanding environmental work.

The UN praised Costa Rica for drawing up a detailed plan for decarbonising its economy by 2050, in line with the Paris Climate Agreement, and said it had placed environmental concerns “at the heart of its political and economic policies.”

“Costa Rica has been a pioneer in the protection of peace and nature and sets an example for the region and for the world,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme.

More than 98 per cent of Costa Rica’s energy is renewable, and the country ran for a record 300 days solely on renewable power in 2017.

Fire alarms for climate change action

The sound of a fire alarm ringing is hardly music to the ears. But today, a group of major companies in the UK will be ringing their alarms to support climate change action, at 1pm, writes Leslie Hook, the FT’s environment and clean energy correspondent.

Companies including Adidas and Ideo have joined in with the campaign and will ring their fire alarms at 1pm. As the protests that started out as a youth movement are spreading into the work places, it’s one way that companies can participate (without giving their employees the day off).

Protesters have also called on churches around the world to ring their bells at 1pm, in their local time zone. This follows one of Greta Thunberg’s early speeches where she addressed leaders at Davos and said: “I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”

What are the protesters saying?

We were curious to hear first-hand what some of the protesters in today’s demonstrations are actually saying. Here are thoughts from Layla Davar, 12, of Camberwell in South London: “I don’t see a point in getting an education and preparing for my future if there isn’t a future left for us.”

Meanwhile, Steven Bird reports on what’s being chanted in Dublin:

“When our planet’s under attack, stand up, fight back.”

“Hey, hey, how ho. Climate change has got to go.”

“The tide is turning, the Amazon is burning.”

What are you thoughts? Tell us in the comments below.

How many people are expected to protest today?

Numbers can get a little fuzzy with a major global protest event that prides itself on being a grassroots movement, Leslie Hook writes. But the organisers have published some fresh stats: they expect some 5,225 events today across 156 countries.

Some 2,500 companies and 73 trade unions will be participating too. However, in terms of how many people will ultimately participate in today’s protest, they are just saying “millions” … and leaving it at that.

Citi: ‘We need to see a massive electrification of transport and industry’

The FT’s Harry Dempsey writes:

US bank Citigroup estimated on Friday that the current rate of carbon dioxide emissions gives us 14 years until we reach a 50 per cent chance of avoiding a 1.5 °C increase in global temperatures.

Its report identified that interventions, primarily in the form of electrification and reducing fossil fuel use, are needed as population and wealth increases will lead to higher energy demand.

Through lower hydrocarbon consumption and the electrification of transport and industry, carbon dioxide emissions can be cut in half by 2050 in the countries that account for 70 per cent of global emissions. This would increase electricity demand but the technologies to produce clean power exist, the report argues.

If the transition is made, EU countries, the US and China would reduce their emissions by nearly 50 per cent, while emerging nations such as Brazil and India would see small decreases – or even increases – in CO2 emissions.

“If there is one key message however, it is that we need to see a massive electrification of transport and industry,” said Jason Channell, head of sustainable finance.

EU’s incoming climate chief meets protesters

The FT’s Mehreen Khan reports from Brussels:

Thousands of climate protesters have taken to the streets of Brussels today ahead of next week’s UN summit. Organisers hope around 15,000 people will attend a march through the city centre and the EU institutions today.

Frans Timmermans, the EU’s incoming climate chief, met with the protest organisers this morning to discuss Brussels’ plans for a “Green New Deal”. Mr Timmermans, other commissioners and MEPs will be in attendance in New York next week.

Mr Timmermans said on Twitter:

Protests taking place from Bangladesh to Kenya

Protesters are mobilising around the world, with the organisers promising events in 156 countries.

These include places on the frontline of climate change, such as low-lying and densely-populated Bangladesh where school students and protesters gathered in the capital Dhaka. One placard read: ‘Our country is going under water’.

In Kenya, which has suffered from high temperatures and erratic rainfall, activists protested in Nairobi.

And in Paris, one protester held up a placard depicting Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.

Speakers address the crowds as London marchers reach their destination

The FT’s Robert Wright reports from the heart of the London demonstration:

The London march finished at Victoria Tower Gardens, by the Thames, in the shadow of the House of Lords. Thousands of people were packed into the gardens and Millbank, the neighbouring road.

They were entertained by indie pop played from an open-top bus before a series of speakers started to address them, to loud cheers.

Among the speakers were schoolchildren from Malawi, who described the effects of climate change on their country, including increased rates of malaria.

Watch out for carbon-related tariffs

The FT’s economic commentator Martin Sandbu writes that few have noted this climate nugget from Thursday’s Franco-German Economic and Financial Council (the regular meeting of the two countries’ finance and economic ministers).

The fight against climate change is of course touted at the top of the statement, but more discreetly near the bottom we read:

We fully support the work on the strategy planned by President-elect von der Leyen, to examine possible measures to prevent carbon leakage, inter alia a carbon border tax.

That’s the only concrete climate policy that is mentioned apart from a battery factory project. So watch this space – carbon-related tariffs may be coming to a global trade bloc near you sooner than you think!

‘It’s our duty’: Paris takes to the streets

The FT’s Hannah Copeland reports on the action in the French capital:

Thousands of Parisians, French and foreign, young and old, joined a good-humoured climate march in the French capital on Friday.

“We are the generation that has to deal with this in the future,” said teenager Elise, who skipped school with friends to join the march in eastern Paris. “There’s so much about this on social media, so we’re very aware.”

Eloise Lehman, a 20-year-old member of a climate action society that includes students from universities across France, said: “We have to walk for the climate. It’s our duty. It’s nice to see people who are really different all walking together.”

A group of 15-16 year olds, skipping school today to protest, including Elise (quoted):

“I have a family with two little girls,” said Kseniya Oudenot, a British-Ukrainian who lives in Paris. “We try to recycle everything at home but sometimes people are ignorant and don’t understand why I bring canvas bags when I go shopping and things like that. It’s nice to see so many people who care.”

Eloise Lehman (20) and Caroline Robert (22), both in an organisation called REFEDD which unites university climate organisations:

French greens enjoyed a surge of support, especially among young voters, in the European elections in May, making Europe Ecologie – Les Verts (EELV) the third biggest French party in the European Parliament. President Emmanuel Macron is attempting to court such voters with a renewed emphasis on the environment and policies to curb global warming.

Oil execs to hold closed meeting during climate summit

Against a backdrop of protests and the UN’s climate summit, oil executives will hold a closed door meeting next week in New York.

The heads of companies including Exxon, Chevron, BP and Shell will meet for a “net zero emissions” discussion in the American city, just miles away from where global leaders will be brainstorming how to wean their countries off fossil fuels.

Critics and climate activists are concerned that the companies will attempt to influence decision makers and water down proposals for tougher regulations.

Amid a rising tide of climate activism, oil and gas companies have come under increasing pressure to do much more to reduce carbon emissions – which would involve fundamentally changing their businesses.

Employees of companies including Google and Amazon have called on their employers to cease working with fossil fuel companies. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest the continued use of fossil fuels and global warming.

The UN said last year the world’s emissions remained dangerously high, and were on track to warm the earth by 3 per cent by the end of the century. Hundreds of researchers are in agreement that such a change would have dramatic knock on effects.

According to Carbon Tracker, no major oil company has seriously committed to realigning their business, and they are instead continuing to invest in dirty fuel projects.

“Every oil major is betting heavily against a 1.5˚C world and investing in projects that are contrary to the Paris goals. Investors should challenge companies’ spending on new fossil fuel production,” said Andrew Grant, senior analyst at Carbon Tracker.

Big Apple ready to take centre stage

Leslie Hook reports from New York:

The biggest protests today are expected to be in New York City, where more than a million students in the public school system have all been given permission to cut class to attend the climate protests (Boston has done the same). Greta Thunberg will be marching with the protesters and addressing them at some point after 3pm EST, in Battery Park, at the southern tip of Manhattan.

As to what exactly the protesters are demanding, the answers vary depending who you ask. Earlier this summer, student activists convened on Lausanne for a week-long summit to debate what their specific demands should be. Those conversations were often difficult, according to those who attended. But they settled on the following three:

- Ensure climate justice and equity
- Keep the global temperature rise below 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels
- Listen to the best united science currently available

Those are quite broad goals … and Ms Thunberg has typically refrained from giving her views on how exactly the world should get there. That’s a job, she says, for the grown-ups.

Germany seeks to lower carbon emissions over next 10 years

The German government has agreed a package of climate measures aimed at lowering harmful carbon emissions over the next decade, writes Tobias Buck in Berlin.

The package includes a commitment to introduce an emissions trading system for sectors such as transport and heating in buildings, effectively raising the price of petrol, gas and heating fuel.

Berlin also promised to spend more than €50bn by 2023 on measures such as boosting public transport and encouraging homeowners to make their buildings more climate friendly.

The overarching goal of the measures is to ensure that Germany meets its climate goals for 2030, which foresee a reduction in CO2 emissions by 55 per cent from 1990 levels.

Details of the package were presented by chancellor Angela Merkel and senior leaders from her coalition government on Friday afternoon.

Green MP Caroline Lucas: ‘We are making history today’

With a message for the “waves upon waves” of young people at the London climate strike, the UK’s only Green party MP Caroline Lucas said the protests “are making history today”.

“Never ever believe anyone who tells you it does not make a difference, it really does,” she said in a video posted to her party’s Twitter page.

Ms Lucas told the crowd the British government was acting too slowly.

When your house is on fire, you don’t call 999 and say you’d like a fire engine in 30 years’ time

Also in London protesting, Owen Jones, a leftwing activist and writer, told the crowd the planet was being “murdered” by companies more interested in the
pursuit of profit than the survival of their own species.

Marching in Kabul

Young people in Afghanistan have got more to worry about than most, but in Kabul today some gathered to mark the climate strike.

Pictures showed the protesters marching in the capital, guarded by the country’s security forces.

Test government policies for their sustainability, says UK energy body

The energy industry’s UK trade association has called for the government to introduce a test to ensure all new policies are in line with achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

A “net zero test” would hold the UK government to its pledge to work towards the mid century goal, and support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the organisation said. Energy UK said the sector was working to become more environmentally friendly, but needed more support from policymakers.

The details of what such a test might include were not disclosed, however.

“Delivering net-zero is not only achievable, it is critical. But it is also a game-changer, and we need to see a step-change in the pace of action and a consistent and concerted effort across the whole of government,” said Energy UK chief executive Lawrence Slade.

He said the power sector had worked hard to reduce the UK’s emissions, but that the industry “must now go further and faster” to achieve the 2050 target.

On Thursday, energy company Ovo promised to reach net zero emissions and eliminate its customers’ household emissions by 2030.

Google could achieve net zero emissions by 2030, says chief

Under pressure from its employees, Google’s chief executive Sundar Pichai has said that the internet group can achieve zero emissions by 2030, one of the key demands of climate strikersm including its staff, who are taking to the streets on Friday, writes the FT’s Tim Bradshaw.

Mr Pichai told the FT in an interview in Helsinki on Friday that a 2030 target “doesn’t seem unreasonable”, putting it on a more ambitious track than rival Amazon, which set itself a 2040 deadline earlier this week.

The 2030 target is a top demand from climate activists who are pressing tech companies to reduce their environmental impact, ahead of the UN Climate Change summit in New York next week.

Organisers say that more than 1,600 Google employees will strike on Friday at offices around the world.

“The carbon footprint of the tech industry’s data centres alone is on par with aviation,” Google Workers for Action on Climate group said in a blogpost this week.

Staffers at Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter have all said they will walk out as part of Friday’s protests, which are expected to see millions take to the streets globally.

Google, which announced 18 new renewable energy deals on Thursday, already pays for enough energy to run its business operations, including its data centres, from wind and solar power.

However, the variability of clean energy supply and the locations of some of those facilities means that it still has to draw on the grid at certain times.

Google has previously said it wants to achieve “24×7” carbon-free energy consumption but had not set a date for doing so.

“It doesn’t seem unreasonable to me,” Mr Pichai said when asked about the protesters’ 2030 target. “We want to be ambitious in how we think about it. It definitely seems the kind of timeline by which we want to accomplish those things.”

His comments may fall short of the firm, contractual commitment that protesters are looking for, however.

It follows what Google said on Thursday was the “biggest corporate purchase of renewable energy in history”. Its package of wind and solar deals struck over the last year will secure a total of 1,600 megawatts of renewable energy for its facilities around the world and spur $2bn in new investment in wind and solar infrastructure around the world, Google said.

Earlier on Thursday, Amazon said it would be carbon neutral by 2040.

Campaigners under the banner of Amazon Employees For Climate Justice said on Twitter they were “thrilled” that the company had set any kind of target but said it was “not enough”.

‘I applaud them’ – Google’s Sundar Pichai on climate strikers

When asked what he would say to the Google employees striking on Friday, chief executive Sundar Pichai said:

I would applaud them for thinking about sustainability. It’s an important goal and value we share as a company.

We would like to think we have led the industry in many ways and we are committed to doing so in the future. We are committed to advocating for change that helps with creating a sustainable planet. I’m glad they are thinking about this.

Jeremy Corbyn calls for ‘green industrial revolution’

The FT’s Robert Wright reports from the central London rally:

The London rally’s climax was a well-received speech by Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour party. He told the crowd the impact of phenomena such as air pollution fell mostly heavily upon the poorest people and poorest communities. Poor children living by busy roads would suffer more from pollution from car exhausts than better-off children living in leafy suburbs, he said.

It was disgraceful that President Trump had pulled the United States out of the Paris climate change accord, he went on. There should be no more “hand-holding” with President Trump – a reference to the incident when Theresa May, former Prime Minister, was pictured holding the president’s hand early in his term in the White House.

“We want every country signed up to Paris – and going a lot further than that!” Mr Corbyn told the demonstrators.

It was important to measure emissions, he went on – and vital that the effect of emissions and pollution in emerging economies be considered when rich countries imported goods from those places. He denied that efforts to combat climate change would destroy jobs in the UK and insisted a “green industrial revolution,” as he called it, could create 400,000 “good, industrial jobs” in the UK.

“Essentially, environment is a word about our natural life, our sustainability and how we lead our lives,” Mr Corbyn said in closing.

“In reality, it has to be a state of mind – a state of mind about how we treat each other, how we treat the natural world and preserve and protect each other. By destroying nature, we destroy each other.”

Climate protests build across the globe

Thousands of workers around the world have walked out of their jobs alongside youth protesters to call for action on climate change.

The marches are taking place in from Lagos to London ahead of next week’s United Nations climate change summit – led by 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg.

Here are some pictures from the worldwide climate strike:








Climate protesters hit the streets around Ireland

The FT’s Arthur Beesley reports from Dublin

In Dublin thousands of climate protesters thronged Merrion Square opposite the Irish parliament in a demonstration organised by students that was backed by trade unions and dozens of voluntary organisations.

The crowd included protesters of all ages, schoolchildren with teachers and parents with tiny babies. A noisy rally around the corner from government buildings in the Irish capital heard demands for more political action to confront global warming.

Sophie O’Donnell, a university student, said it was important to take a stand. “I really hope that [politicians] are understanding that there are thousands of people at their doorstep at that they need to make a change,” she told the FT.

I’m striking during college now because if we go to school, put our heads down, we’re depriving the next generation, because they’re not going to get that opportunity.”

Protests were also under way in Cork, the second city, and 17 other cities and town around the country.

Oil and gas company executives recruit students to the cause

Leslie Hook reports from New York, about how the executives of oil and gas companies are trying to get on the front foot with the troublesome youth:

For the executives of oil and gas companies, there are perhaps few sights more thought-provoking that watching millions of their future customers taking to the streets – many of them demanding an end to fossil fuels.

While energy companies have been working hard to burnish their green credential and announce new climate goals, engaging with the protesters themselves has proven … difficult. In one protest earlier this year, Shell’s London headquarters had a window smashed as protesters glued themselves themselves to the sidewalk outside the building.

In response to this, the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, an energy body that includes the heads of BP, Chevon, Shell, Saudi Aramco, and virtually all the energy majors, will convene on Monday in New York.

Their plan: a special outreach to youth, which includes a “youth lunch dialogue” with CEOs, according to a draft agenda seen by the FT. What could possibly go wrong?

Students and youth are also invited to attend working sessions, on topics such as “Transport – working together to find practical solutions” and “Carbon capture, use and storage – shaping a new narrative to tackle the climate challenge”.

All of these are big talking points for the energy sector, although sometimes their narratives can get a bit creative. As my colleague Harry Dempsey revealed, Equinor was recently reprimanded by the UK advertising watchdog agency for claims that natural gas was a “low-carbon” fuel.

At Monday’s OGCI event, protesters are already planning big demonstrations outside the venue. But inside the event, OGCI expects that students and youth will be sitting down with the CEOs in peaceful dialogue. OGCI says it wants to “brainstorm means for long-term engagement between OGCI, students and youth”, according to the programme.

It’s not clear who, exactly, these youth and students will be… but probably not the same students who are taking to the streets today.

London’s lively crowd demands climate justice

A troupe of more than 15 teenagers in faded denim and Doctor Martin boots stomped to the chorus of “This stuff is starting NOW!” as they performed a lively dance to the sound of Candy by Cameo in central London, writes Charlotte Middlehurst.

Some demonstrators however feared reprisals from being associated with the protest. One man carried a sign that read: “I lost my job to be here”.

Another, a middle-aged British man and Extinction Rebellion member, said:

I have two or three friends who were worried about the consequences of coming and eventually decided not to. To be labelled as an activist is not always a good thing. We all work for capitalist companies, based on making money, making profit. But this [system] has to change or there will be nothing left to protect

You might think you are working for an ethical company but if we look closely there is a chain of culpability. This is a safe protest organised by children, there is no stigma here

Celebrities and researchers call on UN to demand global fracking ban

456 organisations, academics and celebrities have called on the UN to demand a global ban on fracking.

In an open letter sent to the UN’s secretary-general, signatories including actors Emma Thompson and Mark Ruffalo and fashion designer Vivienne Westwood asked António Guterres to demand an end to fracking at the climate summit next week.

The campaigners, organised by non-profits Food & Water Europe and Food & Water Action and the Breathe Project collaborative, said the use of fracked hydrocarbons for energy, petrochemicals and plastics “torpedoes our global efforts to tackle climate change and violates basic human rights.”

Fracking – a process by which fossil fuels are extracted from the ground – has been condemned by many researchers and campaigners as destructive and a contributor to earthquakes. This year, a tremor with a magnitude of 2.9 was recorded at a shale gas site in Lancashire, in the UK, prompting the Oil and Gas Authority to suspend fracking.

Wednesday’s letter said the process risked contaminating fresh water and soil and exacerbating global warming.

Climate change was the “biggest and most comprehensive existential threat humanity has ever faced – apart from nuclear war,” it added.

Protesters gather in Manhattan as cities across the US join global wave

Meet New York’s Greta Thunberg

New York has it’s own Greta Thunberg: the 14-year-old Alexandria Villaseñor. A follower of the Fridays for Future movement and the Scandinavian climate activist, Villaseñor is a co-founder of US Youth Climate Strike and founder of Earth Uprising.

The media-savvy teen, who has featured in everything from Teen Vogue to the Washington Post and MTV, appeared on CNN on Friday morning and rallied supporters of the Earth Uprising movement at the ‘Fearless Girl’ statue near Wall Street ahead of the march to Battery Park from its starting point at nearby Foley Square.

She credits her awakening to a family trip to California, where she was born, during the Camp Fire wildfires, which killed at least 85 people, destroyed 14,000 homes and devastated an area the size of Chicago.

‘This is a crisis, not just a movement’, say NYC attendees

Climate protesters in New York City continue to make their way to the starting point of today’s planned march.

Among a group of young people walking downtown through SoHo to Foley Square in Manhattan’s TriBeCa district was Ashley, a student from Stony Brook University on Long Island.

“What’s the point of doing anything if we don’t have a good planet to live on?” she told the Financial Times.

The health sciences student said she had a keen interest in environmental issues and that she felt a “moral responsibility” to attend today’s protest, the third climate change event she had attended in recent weeks.

Sporting a baseball cap with a succinct slogan opposing the use of plastic, Ashley’s collegemate, Viki, a psychology student, added: “Every individual coming together makes a difference.”

Just around the corner from the FT’s SoHo office, another small group were also making their way downtown to stand up and be counted.

“We want to show that this is a crisis, not just a movement,” said Alexandra, who works for TED-Ed, the youth and education initiative of the popular conferences and media organisation.

Merkel announces sweeping climate change plan

The FT’s Tobias Buck reports that the German government on Friday unveiled sweeping measures to combat climate change in Europe’s largest economy, including the introduction of a carbon price for key sectors such as transport and a €54bn spending package to encourage companies and households to reduce their carbon emissions.

The deal — agreed on Friday after a 15-hour negotiation that lasted into the early hours — is intended to send a strong political signal ahead of next week’s UN climate summit in New York.

At the same time, Greta Thunberg’s #FridaysforFuture climate strike movement claims crowds in the streets of Germany reached a total of 1.4m on Friday.

Greta Thunberg to address climate strike student crowds in New York

Leslie Hook, the FT’s environment writer, reports:

New York students were granted leave to participate in the protest with parental permission — a decision that could see as many as a million public school students on the march on Friday afternoon.

Their champion Greta Thunberg has said she wants the protest to be “another tipping point” and hopes that “there will be so many people that we cannot look away any more”. Marching with the protesters in New York, where she travelled by boat during the summer, she is expected to address the students later on Friday.

Tech workers join climate protests in San Francisco

San Francisco correspondent Hannah Murphy reports:

Around 100 tech workers from Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook in San Francisco gathered outside one of Google’s offices in the city early Friday to then proceed to the youth protest.

With a megaphone, one young woman told the group: “All the tech execs and thought leaders say ‘we are the future’ but if they don’t back that up by ensuring the future of our world and that it is still around, then what is it all for?”

The main protest in San Francisco goes from central Market Street — home to the Google and Twitter offices — with the protesters chanting: “Tech workers say, decarbonise today”.

Protesters held signs that read “System change not climate change” and “Hey Google, no lobbying $ to climate deniers”.

Google worker shares views on climate protests

San Francisco correspondent Hannah Murphy reports:

Disenchantment with levels of effort by some corporates to address climate change were palpable among the protesters gathering in San Francisco.

One extremely outspoken protester was Zack, a software engineer in his mid-20s at Google, who said “we are destroying” this planet.

“I think Google thinks it cares about these things and likes to respond to workers’ grievances. But the fact is Google is not doing enough.”

“They are still a little too motivated by profits, by partnerships and by business concerned” he said, citing Google contracts with oil and gas companies to optimise and accelerate the way they extract fossil fuels.

There are also better ways for the company to minimise the vast amounts of energy it uses to power its data centers, he added.

“We are making it clear to tech workers across the industry that this is a viable model of making change: we are not going to see an immediate fix tomorrow.”

Sundar Pichai, Google chief executive, issued a statement this morning saying he applauded the company’s employees for “thinking about sustainability” and joining the climate strikes, and that the group could achieve zero emissions by 2030.

Zack was sceptical, and said: “If he really supported it then maybe he’d think about responding to those demands.”

Greta Thunberg takes New York

Newsom v Trump

The FT’s Moral Money newsletter reporter Billy Nauman is following the climate-led investment push in California

California Governor (pictured) Gavin Newsom’s positioning as an antagonist to Donald Trump shifted to another level on Friday, as he signed an executive order directing the state’s $700bn pension funds to drive money toward carbon-neutral, carbon-negative and clean energy technology.

“In the face of the White House’s inaction on climate change, California is stepping up and leading the way,” said Governor Newsom.

Under the executive order, he is mandating that CalPERS, CalSTRS, and the University of California Retirement System “measure and manage” the climate risk in their portfolios and adopt a new framework that will see them shift their investments to favour climate friendly companies and industries, his office said.

Newsom and President Trump have butted heads in recent weeks over California’s tough emissions laws and an agreement the state has struck with automakers.

And Newsom is not backing down on that front either. The order also calls on the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to stiffen emission rules and to “push automakers to produce even more clean vehicles, and to find ways for more Californians to buy these vehicles on new and used markets” by developing a new grant program for clean vehicles.

“How we meet this moment will define our state – and country – for decades to come, just as the emergence of the internet defined our economy over the past few decades,” Newsom said.

Did you have to take vacation time to go on strike?

San Francisco correspondent Hannah Murphy reports:

People all around the world have taken to the streets today to raise awareness about climate change. Some schools have given students permission to be absent from school for the event, but for some workers the situation is a bit thornier because it does not relate to a specific workplace issue.

Some employers have been supportive, others have not, and employees of the latter type have been advised to use their annual leave in an effort to avoid immediate or serious consequences.

Margo, a 28-year-old software engineer in the search team at Google, said the company was “broadly supportive” of workers striking.

“It’s hardly great for them when they hear the word strike [but] we have people at director level who have said they are supportive. That does feel good and feel less like ‘us versus them’. Google has taken a lot of steps to be more sustainable, so I’m proud of that.”

But she said a lot of workers had opted to take annual leave rather than actually go on strike.

Google’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, when asked on Friday what he would say to employees striking, said he “would applaud them for thinking about sustainability.”

‘Global political warming’: UN secretary-general damps expectations

Leslie Hook reports from the United Nations building in New York:

While protesters marched across New York City, UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres held a luncheon with journalists and explained what he expects for the climate summit on Monday.

Over striped bass and chard, Mr Guterres tried to tamp down expectations for the upcoming climate announcements from global heads of state.

As heads of state descend on New York for the UN General Assembly, tensions including the trade war and the situation in the Middle East will dominate the headlines next week.

We are witnessing simultaneously, global warming, and global political warming, and the two things are combined, and making my life more difficult.

And sometimes they interact with each other. There will be both at the table, there will be nothing we can do about it.

About 60 heads of state will take the stage on Monday to give speeches with new climate announcements, however Mr Guterres said that many of them would not have specific new pledges, but rather be promising to adopt tougher goals in the future.

I don’t expect that the announcements made now will be an already detailed and complete description — that will be in 2020. The summit needs to be seen in a continuum.

Next year is the deadline for countries that signed the Paris agreement to toughen up their goals, known as nationally determined contributions.

What we would like to see in this summit is people announcing that they would like to increase their ambition in 2020

Mr Guterres added that a “very meaningful” number of countries would be announcing commitments to net zero emissions on Monday. However he avoided answering pointed questions on why China, the world’s biggest coal user and biggest coal power plant builder, would be given time on the stage despite its environmental record.

Thunberg leads speakers in NY with performers Jaden and Willow Smith

New York climate strike protesters have slowly made their way to Battery Park, where the event will end with speakers and performers, led by Thunberg.

Among other activists scheduled to address the crowd are various teenage activists, including Artemisa Xakriabá, an indigenous Amazonian youth leader, and Marisol Rivera, a 13 year-old Hurricane Sandy survivor.

Special performances by rapper Jaden Smith and his songstress and actress sister Willow. The Smith family, led by actor and singer Will, is no stranger to activism and good deeds. Jaden, is the creator of the environmentally friendly ‘Just Water,’ which packages water in carton boxes.

What happens when you let 1.1m public school students out for the day

New York City allowed its public school students to be excused from class for the climate protests. It looks like many of them decided to join the march to Battery Park.

Hello New York City

Greta Thunberg has taken to the stage at Battery Park in Lower Manhattan, saying some 250,000 people are in attendance and 4m and counting have joined the climate strike around the world.

Stand up and be counted

Greta said 350,000 people went on strike in Australia, 100,000 did so in London and 25,000 showed up for Dublin’s climate protest.

In Berlin, 270,000 hit the streets, part of more than 1m who went on strike all over Germany. “Even Antarctica”.

Our house is burning. It’s not just the young people’s house.

We all live here.

School’s out

Greta notes plenty of students have taken the day off school to attend the protests. Riffing on the educational theme, she said:

Why should we study for a future that is being taken away from us, that is being stolen for profit?

She said there is much discussion about the students of today becoming climate scientists, but that would mean waiting too long. “We need to do this now.”

‘Change is coming whether you like it or not’

Reaching the crescendo of her address, Greta says:

We are a wave of change. Together and united, we are unstoppable. This is what people power looks like. We will rise to the challenge.

We will hold those who are most responsible for this crisis accountable. We can and we will.

If you belong to that small group of people who feel threatened by us then we have some very bad news for you, because this is only the beginning. Change is coming whether they like it or not.

Pressure on leaders ‘who are leaving it to us – the children’

The climate change activist thanks the crowd for turning out today and urges everyone to continuing applying pressure to political and business leaders, with the UN Climate Change Summit set to kick off on September 23.

What is the point of educating ourselves and learning facts when the people in power don’t listen to the educated and pay attention and the facts?

We deserve a safe future and we demand a safe future. Is that really too much to ask?

We are not just some young people skipping school or some adults not going to work – we are a wave of change

We are the ones who are making a difference. If no one else will take action then we will. It should not be that way; we should not be the ones fighting for the future, but here we are.

No more selfies with politicians and celebrities

Moral Money reporter Patrick Temple-West reports from Battery Park:

Thunberg castigated politicians and others in power for failing to act on climate change.

“Everywhere I have been, the situation is more or less the same,” Thunberg said before thousands of cheers and chants of “Greta, Greta” at the southern tip of New York with the Statue of Liberty in the background.

The politicians, their beautiful words, are the same.

The politicians and celebrities who want to take selfies with us are the same.

The empty promises are the same, the lies are the same and the inaction is the same.

No where have I found anyone in power who dares to tell it like it is

Greta leaves the stage – but the show goes on

Various performers and speakers took the stage well into the early New York evening, including rapper Jaden Smith and sister Willow.

Adults out on climate strike too

Leslie Hook, the FT’s environment correspondent, reports from Battery Park:

While there were many youth and students attending the protest what was also noticeable about the crowd listening to Greta Thunberg speak in Battery Park was that there were a lot of adults too.

Several I spoke to took days off work to attend the climate protest, joining in Ms Thunberg’s call for a “work strike” by adults.

Bernice Rosenzweig, an environmental scientist (pictured left below), says she is attending the protests for the first time today. “I’m here because climate change is a global emergency, it is unequivocable,” she says, holding a sign that reads: “Just as my ancestors planted for me, so I will plant for my children.”

She says she like Greta’s speech, but added. “I feel badly, as an adult, that children have to rise up and take the leadership initiative.”

Nearby, Daygan Sobotka, a solar panel manager, holds a sign that illustrates rising temperatures with color stripes. He says he also took leave to attend the event. “Greta is inspirational, and she speaks the truth,” he says.

“In the space of just one year, she has gotten people to do things that I have never seen in 41 years.”

Little noise from the corporate sector

US business editor Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson reports that there has been little on the climate strikes around the world from chief executives.

But Paul Polman, the former consumer goods company Unilever CEO, stood out, tweeting that climate change was the greatest intergenerational crime ever committed and that young people were “rightly” demanding bold action.

US business editor Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson notes that the week ahead at the UN General Assembly means only one thing for most New Yorkers: traffic.

So it is little surprise to see some companies try to capitalise on wealthier visitors’ aversion to going nowhere fast. While Greta Thunberg arrived by yacht, most UNGA attendees still prefer swifter modes of transport, whatever their environmental impact.

Blade, an app-operated helicopter shuttle service, emailed customers on Friday to warn them traffic would be “obscene”, “unbearable” and “near complete gridlock”. Its recommendation, naturally, was that UNGA-goers should “soar above” the yellow cabs and Ubers.

Services would be crimped by flight restrictions mandated by President Trump’s Secret Service agents, Blade warned, but as of Friday afternoon, there were still some seats available for flights between Manhattan and JFK, starting at $195 each way.

Stand by for the Climate Action Summit 2019 in New York next week

Numbers for the day of climate strikes remain entirely unverified. But if the organisers behind Greta Thunberg’s movement are even half right about the figures of more than 3 million people — and that was the tally even before counting in North and South America — massing in waves around the world will set up the challenge thrown at the the Climate Change summit at the United Nations next week.

The FT will cover the action through the weekend and into next week, in particular the response from the business and corporate world. You can read more of the coverage on climate change here from environment correspondent Leslie Hook.