Global climate protesters demand governments phase out fossil fuels

More than one million protesters will gather globally over the weekend to demand an end to the burning of fossil fuels.

Climate activists protest outside the headquarters of BlackRock in Manhattan in New York City, New York, US, on September 13, 2023 [Mike Segar/Reuters]

Climate protesters are set to take to the streets in more than 50 countries for a weekend of demonstrations to demand that governments phase out the burning of fossil fuels dangerously heating the planet.

In a year of mounting deaths and economic destruction from record-breaking floods, wildfires and drought, protesters have planned more than 500 gatherings – from Pakistan and Nigeria to the United States.

Organisers of the demonstrations expect the global turnout over the weekend to total more than one million people. That could make the action the largest international climate protest since before the COVID-19 pandemic when the “school strike” movement led by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg saw millions of people worldwide join marches.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg delivers her speech during a Fridays for Future demonstration in Milan, Italy, on Friday, October 1, 2021 [File: Antonio Calanni/AP Photo]

Protesters demand an end to oil and gas subsidies

Organisers said they would call on governments to end subsidies for oil and gas immediately and to cancel any plans for expanding fossil fuel production.

Governments spent a record $7 trillion in subsidies to oil, gas and coal last year, according to an IMF analysis.

“We’re taking to the streets to demand that African leaders phase out on fossil fuels and focus on investing in community-led renewable energy to meet the energy demand for the 600 million Africans who do not have access to electricity,” said Eric Njuguna, a climate activist based in Nairobi, Kenya.

The demonstrations occur two months before this year’s United Nations COP28 climate summit, where more than 80 countries plan to push for a global agreement to phase out coal, oil and gas gradually.

The burning of fossil fuels is the main cause of climate change, but countries have never agreed in UN climate talks to phase out fossil fuels – though they have committed to “phase down” the use of coal power.

Governments reliant on oil and gas revenues and those planning to use fossil fuel-based energy to improve poor communities’ living standards are expected to push back on the proposal.

climate protestors
Youth climate justice activist Eric Njuguna attends a press conference on the urgency of putting fossil fuel phase-out on the table at the COP28 climate summit later this year in Dubai [Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters]

Richer nations expected to invest more in low-carbon energy

Wealthy nations will also face pressure to offer far more funding to help developing countries invest in low-carbon energy.

Renewable energy is cheaper than fossil fuels in terms of its running costs, but communities need support to make the upfront investments required to build wind farms and install solar panels quickly.

Despite having plentiful solar energy resources, Africa received only 2 percent of global investments in renewable energy over the last two decades, the International Renewable Energy Agency says.

About 15,000 people are expected to join a march in New York City on Sunday as leaders gather for next week’s UN General Assembly, as well as a “climate ambition summit” on Wednesday.

“This is directed at world leaders,” said Mitzi Jonelle Tan, a climate activist with youth movement Fridays for Future in Manila, the Philippines.

“The fossil fuel industry’s time is up. We need a just transition and we need to phase out the fossil fuels causing the destruction of our environment,” she said.

The United Nations has warned countries are way off track to curb warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times, as agreed in Paris in 2015. The world has warmed at least 1.1C since then.

Over the past few months, Earth broke its daily average heat record several times. According to one metric July was the hottest month ever on record.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies