Caroline Lucas has said children missing school to campaign for action to tackle climate change should be allowed to do so because of “exceptional circumstances”.
The Brighton Pavilion MP told thousands of campaigners taking part in the Youth Strike 4 Climate event: “The time for talking is over, and time for action is now.”
Ms Lucas, who was met with chants of “Oh Caroline Lucas” and “Tories out, Greens In”, told the crowd in Brighton: “The evidence is really shocking, we have less than 12 years to get off the collision course that we’re on, my generation has let you down.
“In the last 12 months there’s only been one debate on climate change in Parliament.
“There is a better way forward.”
In Brighton, there were some jeers from the crowd as Caroline Lucas mentioned they should have been at school today.
The Green MP told the crowd: “You shouldn’t be here, you should be in class. But students should only be allowed to miss lessons in exceptional circumstances.
“The collapse of civilisations is a vital exceptional circumstance.”
Ms Lucas also referred to American congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s recently-unveiled Green New Deal as she called for a British version.
“In the US, she is calling for a Green New Deal, and here in the UK we are calling for a Green New Deal.
“What we are calling for are hundreds and thousands of good green jobs. What we are calling for is a huge investment in green energy and energy efficiency.
“I believe, and I share with you the belief, that people, at the age of 16, should get the vote.”
Caroline Lucas, the only Green Party MP, said she was “feeling quite emotional” following the “incredible turnout” in Brighton.
Sharing pictures of the event on Twitter, she wrote: “This is most hopeful thing that’s happened in years.
“Exciting thing is positive policies like #GreenNewDeal are taking off too.
“We can win this fight for a safer, fairer future!”
Earlier on in the day thousands of campaigners, young and old, circulated around the city’s clock tower with banners and posters as part of the Youth Strike 4 Climate event.
As they gathered, the group began chanting anti-Tory slogans and were also critical of world leaders, including Donald Trump.
Stephen Bradley, 55, said: “The situation in Venezuela is part of it, the United States is trying to get its hands on their oil reserves, which is going to accelerate global warming over the next few decades.”
They also shouted “tell the truth” as student socialist groups began circulating leaflets.
Activist Connor Rosoman, 21, said: “The Tories are a party of big business, they’re not going to do anything.
“It needs to be ordinary people to make the change and turn society into something that’s not based on profit.
“Nationalisation can help. We can’t control what we can’t own.”
Roads were then brought to a standstill as the protesters marched through the city towards the park.
Police cars and officers accompanied them throughout.
Local residents watched from their windows and cars as the group moved through the streets.
The march ended where they waited for Caroline Lucas to arrive.