Protests against climate change rock world cities - GulfToday

Protests against climate change rock world cities

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Greek students and activists of environmental organisations hold a protest in Athens on Friday. Reuters

Hundreds of thousands of students and workers left their schools, colleges and offices on Friday and marched along city streets around the globe to demand that world leaders take urgent action to avert an environmental catastrophe.

The global climate strike, inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, kicked off in the Pacific islands and followed the rising sun across Australia, Japan, Southeast Asia and then on to Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas.

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An activist takes part in a protest in Cali, Colombia, on Friday. Luis Robayo/AFP

Greta Thunberg said she hoped Friday’s massive worldwide climate strikes would mark “a social tipping point” in persuading leaders to take decisive action on global warming.

The 16-year-old described the numbers of people who took to the streets as “unbelievable” — from Asia-Pacific to Europe and Africa, culminating in New York where a million students have been permitted to skip school.

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Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks in New York on Friday.  AP


“I hope this will be another social tipping point that we show how many people are engaged, how many people are putting pressure on leaders, especially before this UN climate action summit,” said Thunberg, referring to Monday’s meeting in New York.


Meanwhile, Dr Thani Bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister for Climate Change and Environment, on Friday concluded a three-day visit to Washington. During his visit, the minister showcased the UAE’s leading efforts in climate action at bilateral meetings and panel discussions on the most important environmental and climate challenges facing the world.

Maintaining the focus on youth, Zeyoudi delivered a lecture to undergraduates at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He highlighted the UAE’s multifaceted approach to climate action at home and further afield, from deploying clean energy megaprojects and improving energy efficiency to driving green economy and preserving biodiversity.

“I hope this will be another social tipping point that we show how many people are engaged, how many people are putting pressure on leaders, especially before this UN climate action summit.”

Also during the day, more than 1,000 United Nations employees called for the global body to reduce its carbon footprint, including through curbs on their own diplomatic perks like business-class flights and travel handouts.

Social media posts showed scores of demonstrations, ranging from a few dozen primary school children in Abuja, Nigeria, to tens of thousands of people in cities from Hamburg, in Germany, to Melbourne, Australia.

“This is about my future, not only my future, but the future of my entire generation and all the generations to come after ours,” said Tristan Vancleef, 16, among around 15,000 demonstrators who marched through the centre of Brussels.

 

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Alaska Pacific University students take part in a youth climate strike in Anchorage, Alaska, US. Reuters

Banners at the Brussels march included “Cool kids save the hot planet,” “I won’t go to school until you make it cool” and “The warm earth destroys our cold beer.”

Protesters in about 150 countries are calling on governments to take immediate action to limit the harmful effects of manmade climate change.

Britain’s opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted that 100,000 people joined the demonstration in London. “Our future on your shoulders,” read one banner stretched across a street by students in Berlin.

“Our oceans are rising, so are we,” was a popular slogan on placards in many places, including one carried by a student in school uniform in Melbourne and another by a girl wearing a facemask in Kolkata, in eastern India.

Among the students gathering in New York’s Foley Square ahead of a midday march was Alexandria Villasenor, a 14-year-old who has been striking outside the UN every Friday since Dec.14.

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Youths march on a street in Nagoya, central Japan. AP

Global warming caused by heat-trapping greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels has already led to droughts and heat waves, melting glaciers, rising sea levels and floods, scientists say.

Carbon emissions climbed to a record high last year, despite a warning from the UN-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in October that output of the gases must be slashed over the next 12 years to stabilise the climate.

The protest movement is putting increasing pressure on both governments and companies to respond.

Online retail giant Amazon.com Inc pledged on Thursday it would be net carbon neutral by 2040.

In Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel unveiled a major new climate protection package thrashed out by parties in her coalition in all-night talks.

Meanwhile, on the streets of the capital, crowds gathered at the Brandenburg Gate, where three activists stood on blocks of ice beneath a mock gallows.

WAM / Agencies