20 September climate strikes: what took place and what happens now?

A blog post by Aoife Hutton

Aoife Hutton

Posted 26/09/2019

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I want to tell you about 20 September, the weeks leading up to that date and what it means for the future.

On 20 September, the largest climate change protest in history took place in every continent of the world.

The reason? Climate change is hurtling fast towards a point of no return. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said, in no uncertain terms, that to limit the worst effects of climate change we need “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”[1]

In August 2018, Greta Thunberg skipped school one day to demonstrate outside Swedish Parliament to call for stronger climate action. What followed was a rippling movement, led by young people – calling for the necessary: for the world to align our actions with the science and to cut global greenhouse gas emissions.

Keep Scotland Beautiful has worked in the climate landscape for over a decade. Yet 20 September tipped a new point for our organisation. Our board of trustees made a decision to grant all staff a day to support the strike or to participate in a Climate Conversation. And we weren’t the only organisation in Scotland, businesses and organisations across sectors did the same. The message is clear, we all need to step up our efforts to new levels, the time for waiting has long passed.

Colleagues and I attended strikes in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling and Dundee. On the train to the Edinburgh strike I felt anticipation; there was an energy, a positivity that can feel absent at times in the face of environmental injustice. We met for a steward briefing in the morning, having signed up to help following a call from Scottish Youth Climate Strike for 100 adults to assist with the march.

We expected 5,000 – 10,000 attendees at the Edinburgh strike. Estimates now place that at 15,000 – 20,000. And remarkably, the majority of the crowd were children and young people. They were creative, ambitious, honest and unapologetically demanding a different path for Scotland.

This week in Parliament, the Scottish Climate Bill was debated and passed, setting a 2030 target to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 75%. All eyes are watching – and the call for change seems to be starting to resonate with the chambers in Holyrood. But, not only do we need strong targets, we  need a plan to get there. This means change for everyone: how we do business, how we interact with the world – infrastructure, transport, food to name a few.

New research shows 80% of the UK public are now “fairly concerned” or “very concerned” about climate change[2]. Keep Scotland Beautiful is working to make information about climate change available to everyone, to ‘level-up’ our understanding of climate, through our Carbon Literacy training, delivered to organisations, schools and groups across the country. Knowledge catalyses the changes we need to make and facilitate pathways to behaviour change. A lot of us missed the science at school – it’s never too late to learn and actively seek.

Through the Climate Challenge Fund (CCF), which we manage on behalf of the Scottish Government, we support community-led projects at the frontline of tackling climate change. Total CCF funding since 2008 has exceeded £104 million and we are delighted to have supported over 1,100 projects since 2008. 

What can you do today?

We have a lot to do, no doubt, and this can seem overwhelming for an individual. A lasting takeaway from September 20 is that there are many, many people who care deeply and want to see change. Friday 20 September was not a beginning or end to our action on climate, but a point along the line – its time to keep propelling change – and we need everyone to help.

Here are three things you can do right now:

  • Get educated: Take a look at online resources, there is some great stuff out there.
  • Get talking: Keep talking to everyone – climate change needs to be a part of our daily language.  Organise a Climate Conversation.
  • Get connected: Get involved in your local Climate Challenge Fund group – these networks are vital to driving change where it matters.


[1] https://www.ipcc.ch/2018/10/08/summary-for-policymakers-of-ipcc-special-report-on-global-warming-of-1-5c-approved-by-governments/

[2] The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) (2019). Public Attitudes Tracker: Wave 29

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