Tens of thousands of protesters have rallied in cities across the world, demanding more action on climate change and aiming to force political leaders to come up with urgent solutions at a United Nations conference next week.
The demonstrations kicked off in Australia on Friday, where people affected by recent devastating wildfires joined young environmentalists protesting against the government’s pro-coal stance.
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.
“Our government’s inaction on the climate crisis has supercharged bushfires,” 18-year-old Shiann Broderic, one of the event’s organisers, whose home was destroyed in a bushfire, told Reuters News Agency.
Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg, who is travelling across the Atlantic by sailboat to attend the UN climate talks in Madrid, sent a message of support to protesters. “Everyone’s needed. Everyone’s welcome. Join us,” she said on Twitter.
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) November 29, 2019
Since starting her one-woman “climate strikes” in Sweden more than a year ago, Thunberg has drawn a huge following around the world and inspired thousands more students to regularly skip school on Fridays and join climate protests.
This Friday’s climate strike is taking place in 2,300 cities in 153 countries around the world, according to estimates by the climate campaign group, Fridays For Future.
Quang Paasch of the activist group said governments attending next week’s annual climate conference in the Spanish capital should keep in mind the goals of the 2015 Paris accord, which set a target of keeping global warming well below two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit).
“We need to keep taking to the streets, we need to defend Paris,” he said.
Students in India’s capital demonstrated outside a waste energy power plant. New Delhi is one of the world’s most polluted cities.
In the Polish capital, Warsaw, activists, some in gas masks, chanted and waved banners saying: “Save our planet”, “Plastics plague our oceans” and “Poland without coal 2030”.
In Germany’s 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 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 that is driven in part by environmental concerns.
Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands, reporting from the British capital, London, said activists “were hoping to bring the message to the shoppers, before heading towards the Parliament Square.”
Theodore Siri, a 15-year-old protest organiser in London, told Al Jazeera: “The most important message for us is that the climate crisis is more important than any other issue that’s currently being discussed on the political table.”
In South Africa, a few dozen people holdings signs saying “Not Cool” and “Stop Pollution Now” protested outside the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in the summer heat of the Southern Hemisphere.
One protester lay on the ground faking death, holding a sign saying: “Black Friday Reason to Grieve.”
Africa contributes least to climate change and is the least prepared to deal with it. Temperatures in parts of the continent are projected to rise more quickly than the global average.
Scores of young Nigerians marched in downtown Lagos displaying messages such as “There is no planet B” and “Stop Denying the Earth is Dying” as passing vehicles slowed and honked in support.
Representatives from 200 nations are scheduled to meet in Madrid for the 12-day UN Climate Change conference, COP25, from December 2-13.