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Thirteen-year-old Lochaber High School pupil Holly Gillibrand will tomorrow (Friday) walk out of school to stage a one-hour strike in support of calls for more government action to tackle climate change.
Holly, from Kinlocheil, is in second year at the Fort William secondary, and says she has been inspired by the astonishing speech given at the recent UN summit on climate change in Poland by teenage climate campaigner Greta Thunberg.
The address by the 15-year-old from Sweden, in which she shamed climate change negotiators at the summit over their lack of action so far, went viral online.
‘You are not mature enough to tell it like it is,’ Ms Thunberg said at the COP24 summit. ‘Even that burden you leave to us children. But I don’t care about being popular. I care about climate justice and the living planet.’
The Swedish teenager has now inspired thousands of young people in 40 countries around the globe to walk out of their schools on Fridays in a demand that adults take more radical action on climate change.
Now Holly, already fast becoming a seasoned environmentalist with a recent campaign around Fort William on single-use plastic, is set to follow in Ms Thunberg’s footsteps.
She told the Lochaber Times: ‘I am planning to climate strike in solidarity with Greta Thunberg every Friday from 8.45am to 9.45am and I hope more students and people will join me.
‘On February 15 there is also going to be a UK-wide school strike so hopefully I will have a group of people striking with me by then.
‘I am striking because the UK government is not doing enough to prevent rapid climate breakdown and to have net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.’
Holly’s mum Kate Willis is one of the founding members of the new Fort William branch of the Extinction Rebellion protest movement on climate change, which will stage its first meeting on January 22 in the town’s Duncansburgh Hall.
She says her daughter, who eventually wants to be a vet, has her full support for the series of Friday climate strikes and intends being with her tomorrow outside the school.
‘We have notified the school that Holly will be absent for an hour – she will be missing a drama class -and hopefully many others will lend their support. Hopefully any others will be doing it for the right reasons and not just because they fancy an hour out of school.
‘It would be best if any young people wanting to join Holly make sure their parents give their consent and notify the school.’
A Highland Council spokesperson said: ‘The Highland Council’s programme includes a specific commitment to introduce a range of strategies and plans to support our commitment to sustainability.
‘The programme is committed to foster sustainable local communities and to developing a sustainable local workforce.
‘The education authority cannot sanction unauthorised absence from school, no matter how well-meaning the intention.’