Former Archbishop of Canterbury cheers on students who are walking out to demand action on climate change

Months of student strikes have roiled the UK as pupils across the country have refused to go to class while demanding action on climate change, inspired by Swedish student Greta Thunberg's one-person strike at the Swedish Parliament.

This Friday, UK students are planning a coordinated mass walkout, with 100,000 students expected to participate. It's a prelude to a week of even bigger protests planned for London in April by Extinction Rebellion (XR), who have called for official UK governmental recognition of the climate crisis and zero emissions nationwide by 2025, overseen by a citizens' assembly in charge of a transition to a sustainable economy.

In a video message former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (previously) has backed the students, saying "The nature of changes in climate and environment that we are living with threaten not only the wellbeing but also the being of our species on this planet in the long term – and in the middle term they threaten some of the most vulnerable populations on Earth."

The group closed London bridges in November, and this time it intends to bring widespread disruption to London until its demands are met.

There is growing evidence of the scale of the climate emergency. Last year a UN report said there were only 12 years left to avoid the worst impacts of climate breakdown from floods and heatwaves to food shortages and huge numbers of climate refugees.

Williams added: “I believe a wide and deep support from the public is needed to bring this matter fully to the attention of our political leaders. To show we can actually achieve democratic change for the good of everybody.”

Rowan Williams says pupils are right to protest over climate [Matthew Taylor/The Guardian]