Strike for the climate, Italy's education minister tells students

ROME (Reuters) - Italy’s education minister encouraged students to skip school and take part in climate protests on Friday, when people in several countries are expected to take to the streets following a worldwide protest by millions last week to demand action against global warming.

FILE PHOTO: Lorenzo Fioramonti arrives at Quirinale Presidential Palace, before being sworn in as Italy's new education minister, in Rome, Italy September 5, 2019. REUTERS/Ciro de Luca

“I have asked schools to consider as justified the absence of students who take part in the global mobilization against climate change”, Education Minister Lorenzo Fioramonti wrote on Facebook on Monday.

He said the climate strike was “essential” for students’ future, which was “threatened by environmental devastation and an unsustainable economic growth model.”

Italy will strike on Sept. 27 along with other countries including the Netherlands, Canada, Spain and Portugal. On Sept. 20, millions of young people united in a worldwide protest inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.

A former economics professor at Pretoria University, Fioramonti has written several books arguing that gross domestic product should no longer be used as the main measure of countries’ economic success.

A member of the anti-establishment and environmentalist 5-Star Movement, he has called for new taxes on plane tickets in order to boost funds for education and reduce emissions.

Immediately after the new government of 5-Star and the center-left Democratic Party was sworn in this month, he threatened to resign unless it agreed to invest more in education.

Italy spends just 3.6% of GDP on primary to university education, compared with an average of 5% among 32 countries in a report this month by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development.

As a proportion of total public spending, Italy came bottom in the whole OECD bloc.

A three-day United Nations climate summit closed on Monday and the climate protest movement inspired by Thunberg continues to gather momentum.

Germany last week announced a package of measures worth 50 billion euros ($54.93 billion) to protect the climate.

“Italy wants to play a leading role in the transition towards a green economy”, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Monday, reiterating his government’s pledge to introduce incentives against polluting emissions in its 2020 budget.

($1 = 0.9103 euros)

Reporting by Angelo Amante; Editing by Gavin Jones and Lisa Shumaker