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Dear coal workers & communities

A solidarity message from school strikers across Australia to coal workers and communities.

Dear coal workers and coal communities,

We are school students aged 5-18 who come from many different walks of life across Australia and around the world. Some of us live in mining communities, some farming regions. Others come from tiny country towns, hinterlands, and cities.

We are writing to let you know that we stand in solidarity with you in our struggle for a safe climate and a better future.

Tackling climate change is a huge challenge, bigger than any we’ve faced before. The changes we need to make will affect everyone, but young people, those living on the frontline of climate impacts and communities like yours, will be affected most. It is up to all of us to ensure that we tackle the climate crisis to avoid further harm to people, but that we do it in a way that does not cause harm to communities and workers.

Already, we’re feeling the devastating impacts of one degree of warming. Earlier this year, Australia sweated through its hottest summer on record. Queensland and NSW are battling crippling drought. Storms are becoming more extreme and dangerous. Half of the Great Barrier Reef - the largest living structure on earth - is now dead due to rising water temperatures, fuelled by climate change.

And this is just the start. We are on track to experience several degrees of warming across our lifetimes if we don’t act now. Records are consistently broken, often exceeding even the worst case scenario estimates.

Experts have told us that mining and burning coal is the primary cause of these impacts. But that does not mean coal workers are to blame. Many of us live in coal communities. Many of our families and friends work in the industry. We understand the role coal has played in putting food on the table for our families and providing employment in regional areas.

As we work to stop more dangerous climate change, we stand with you - not against you. Our frustration and anger about climate inaction is not directed at you, but at the people in power, who are failing to bring us together to create climate solutions that don’t leave any of us behind. The fight for climate justice and better conditions is one in the same with big corporations as the main culprit of our predicament.

Climate justice is not about pitting people against one another and pointing the finger. It’s not about jobs versus the environment. Just as climate change hurts people, unemployment hurts people too. And that is why we need to work together - communities, industry and governments at all levels. We need to put aside the politics and sit down respectfully to work out a solution to this problem, because too many people stand to suffer if we do not.

As workers, you and your families’ deserve respect, certainty and sustainable employment. As young people, we deserve a safe future and policies that don’t hand us more extreme heat, drought, storms, food and water insecurity. None of us deserve to live in fear. We can work together in a fair transition to the industries of the future that protect our climate and livelihoods.

With mutual respect, together we can and will fix this.

With appreciation,

The school strikers for climate action

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