Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, who is in New York, acclaimed the "huge crowd" gathering in Sydney and said Australia was setting the standard before climate strike protests in Europe, the US and Africa.

By Ian Horswill

Posted on September 20, 2019

Sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg, who is in New York, is overjoyed at the tens of thousands of children and office workers who have walked out of school and their workplaces for climate strike, to protest at the lack of action combatting climate change.

Students from capital cities and towns in Asia and Australia were among the first to protest and they did in their tens of thousands. Europe, the US and Africa will take part in climate strike later today to try to make politicians take action over climate change.

Children in Australia and the Pacific Islands started the Global Strike 4 Climate, walking out of school for what is expected to be one of the largest-ever collective calls to action in a movement fuelled by social media under the hashtag #climatestrike. More than 5000 events are planned worldwide, culminating in a massive rally in New York, where 1.1 million students in around 1,800 public schools have been permitted to skip school.

In Sydney and Melbourne crowds were estimated at 80,000 to 150,000 respectively, making them the biggest demonstrations since the Iraq war, The Guardian reported. In Tasmania 22,000 marchers made it the biggest strike action the state had ever seen.

Thunberg used to ditch school and sit by herself outside the Swedish parliament in Stockholm with a protest sign calling for action on climate change. She is in New York to address the United Nations General Assembly next week.

She has been overwhelmed by the response in Australia.

In Sydney, protesters are congregating at the Domain to listen to speeches before marching to Hyde Park later in the afternoon. Police earlier confirmed that at least 50,000 people were at the rally, but that number is now being estimated at about 100,000. Huge crowds have gathered in Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide. Other towns are also having their own protests.

In Vanuatu, there were climate strike protests, with the country’s deputy prime minister Jotham Napat, delivering his speech in English “because the people who need to hear this, the ones who are causing the problems, are not here”.

Napat named the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan and New Zealand as the ones who are “to blame for this threat to our survival,” the Vanuatu Daily Post reported.