WELLINGTON - Thousands of students walked out of class across New Zealand on Friday, kicking off a global student strike against government inaction on climate change.
"Climate change is worse than Voldemort," read one student's handmade sign, referring to the evil wizard in the hugely popular Harry Potter books and films.
"I bet dinosaurs thought they had time too," read another sign, as students and parents marched on parliament house in the capital Wellington.
Student protests were held in 30 towns and cities across New Zealand and are planned for capitals and cities across Australia, Europe and the United States later Friday.
The marches are part of a worldwide student strike movement, which started in August 2018 when 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg began protesting outside her parliament on school days. Norwegian lawmakers have nominated her for the Nobel Peace Prize.
"The government just needs to change some things, which is why if we go on strike on a school day then they'll notice and they might actually do something about it," said 14-year-old New Zealand student Inese, who did not want her surname made public.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who has pledged NZ$100 million ($68 million) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, supports the student strikes, saying teenagers should not wait until they are old enough to vote to use their voice.
Ardern's support of the students contrasts with politicians in Australia and Britain who have rebuked them for cutting class.
"For action on issues that they think is important, they should do that after school or on weekends," Australia's Minister for Education Dan Tehan told reporters ahead of protests in Melbourne.
Wellington parent Alex, who marched beside his 11-year-old son, disagreed. "It's a much better day of education ... this is the greatest issue of our time," he said.
Scientists say the burning of fossil fuels such as coal releases greenhouse gases that trap heat and lift global temperatures, causing more floods, droughts, heat waves and rising sea levels.
At the 2015 Paris climate conference, countries pledged to work to limit the rise to 2 degrees Celsius (35 Fahrenheit), a step that will require a radical reduction in the use of coal and fossil fuels.