Hundreds of students and their supporters marched through the streets of Halifax on Friday calling for action on climate change.
The protesters were taking part in the Global Climate Strike, an international student-led protest first started by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg as Fridays for Future, in 2019.
In Halifax, the crowd marched from Victoria Park at South Park Street and Spring Garden Road, down to Province House on Hollis Street, to Nova Scotia Power headquarters on Lower Water Street, and then back to Victoria Park.
Though mostly made up of students, the crowd included older and younger Haligonians and at times, MLAs from Nova Scotia’s three main political parties.
Along the way, they chanted:
No more coal, no more oil, keep your carbon in the soil!
Hey hey! Ho ho! Fossils fuels have got to go!
What do we want? Climate action! When do we want it? Now!
I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees! Pollute again and I’ll break your knees!
Fuck NS Power!
Lilian Hougan-Veenma, one of the organizers and a Grade 12 student at Citadel High School, said she got involved because she was experiencing increasing anxiety about climate change.
“It got to the point where it was like I couldn’t continue living my life in a way that was like happy and fulfilled unless I did something to organize,” Hougan-Veenma said in an interview at the strike on Friday.
Nova Scotia and Canada should have stricter climate change targets, Hougan-Veenma said.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) called in 2018 for a 45% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from 2010 levels by 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5° C.
Nova Scotia aims to reduce GHGs to 56% below 2005 levels by 2030 and to hit net zero by 2050, a goal set in 2019. It claimed at the time that the plan was in line with the IPCC recommendation. In July, Canada increased its target, aiming to reduce GHGs to 40‑45% below 2005 levels by 2030. The previous plan aimed for a 36% reduction.
“There’s no actual clear ways that we’re going to achieve those targets and there’s no checks and balances for if we don’t achieve those targets,” Hougan-Veenma said.
Generally, Hougan-Veenma just wants to see all levels of government take climate change seriously.
“Climate change is something that impacts us on every level of society. It is a social justice issue as much as it is an environmental issue,” Hougan-Veenma said.
Speaking during the rally, Amelia Penney-Crocker, a Grade 11 student at Citadel, said Canada needs to be a leader in cutting GHGs.
“We have to hit our target, we have to go beyond our target. We have to push other countries to do their part. We have to do it. We don’t have any other option,” Penney-Crocker said.
Dalhousie Student Union Vice President Mazen Brisha led the way through the streets of Halifax for much of Friday’s march, and said he was happy to see so many people out to support the cause.
“It proves that this generation truly cares about something greater than themselves. This generation truly cares about leaving a legacy. And that legacy is a planet,” Brisha said in an interview.
Brisha said the time for negotiation is over, and he wants to see more action. He wants Dalhousie University to divest from fossil fuels, and he wants to see a higher price on carbon.
“Canada should be one of the pioneers of climate action. Instead, over the last 10 years or so it’s been falling behind,” Brisha said.
“Canada needs to be put in the spotlight, Halifax needs to be put in the spotlight, Dalhousie needs to be put in the spotlight. All these institutions, corporations, they need to do more, be better for our environment for our future generations.”
There’s expected to be another climate strike scheduled in October.