November 29, 2019 - Thousands of people across the world joined rallies demanding more action on climate change on Friday, aiming to force political leaders to come up with urgent solutions at a United Nations conference next week.
The demonstrations came as 200 nations prepare to gather in Madrid next week for a 12-day UN climate conference.
Friday’s climate strike took place in 2,300 cities in 153 countries around the world, according to estimates by the climate campaign group Friday For Future, according to Reuters.
In Warsaw, activists, some in gas masks, chanted and waved banners saying: “Save our planet”, “Plastics plague our oceans” and “Poland without coal 2030”.
In Berlin, protesters in swimming costumes dived into the chilly waters of the river Spree, holding up a white box in a symbolic attempt to rescue the government’s climate change package.
Activists protested at Amazon (AMZN.O) sites around France, using the annual Black Friday shopping frenzy to denounce what they said was the destructive effect of rampant consumerism, in a backlash against the event driven in part by environmental concerns.
Several dozen protesters staged a dawn sit-in outside an Amazon building in the Clichy district of Paris, holding up a sign saying: “No to Amazon and its world.”
In Australia, students in Sydney and other major cities walked out of class, saying more should be done to combat the country’s bushfire crisis, which many see as a result of climate change.
Australia has for weeks been battling wildfires, which have killed at least four people, burnt about 2.5 million acres (1 million hectares) of farmland and bush and destroyed more than 500 homes.
Holding home-made signs, including “The climate is changing, why aren’t we?” Protesters in Sydney accused the government of inadequate action in addressing the bushfire crisis. Smoke from bushfires in New South Wales state formed a haze overhead.
“Our government’s inaction on the climate crisis has supercharged bushfires,” said 18-year-old Shiann Broderic, one of the event’s organizers, whose home was destroyed in a bushfire.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has rejected suggestions his government is not doing enough on climate change.
Australia has pledged to cut carbon emissions by 26% from 2005 levels by 2030, but recent data shows emissions are unchanged.
Protesters across Asian cities also heeded the call to action from 16-year-old climate change campaigner Greta Thunberg, AFP reported.
In Tokyo, hundreds of protesters marched through the teeming Shinjuku district to raise awareness of the issue.
"I feel a sense of crisis because almost no one in Japan is interested" in climate change, said 19-year-old student Mio Ishida.
In Delhi, about 50 school and college students staged a march to the environment ministry in the world’s most polluted capital, carrying placards and chanting slogans demanding that the government declare a climate emergency.
India is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gases and has 14 of the 15 most polluted cities in the world, according to a UN study.
Last month, millions of people took to the streets in nearly every major global city for a series of "climate strikes".
The UN climate conference in Madrid will focus largely on finalizing the "rulebook" for the 2015 Paris climate treaty, which becomes operational in 2021.
Scientists have warned that efforts to cap warming to 1.5 Celsius are failing, and that carbon emissions – which are on the rise – would need to fall 7.6 percent a year to meet the target.
The UN has reported that greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere, the main driver of climate change, hit a record high last year.
The organization has also warned that global temperatures are on pace to rise almost four Celsius by the end of the century – an increase that could make some places virtually uninhabitable.