'Millions' protest in youth-led global climate strike

'Millions' protest in youth-led global climate strike

A young protester is seen taking part in The Global Strike 4 Climate rally in Brisbane
A young protester is seen taking part in The Global Strike 4 Climate rally in Brisbane, Australia, September 20, 2019. AAP Image/Dan Peled/via REUTERS

NEW YORK: Masses of children skipped school to join a global strike against climate change that teen activist Greta Thunberg said was "only the beginning", ahead of a UN youth summit she will participate in Saturday.

About four million people filled city streets around the world, organisers said, in what was expected to be the biggest ever protest against the threat posed to the planet by rising temperatures.

Youngsters and adults chanted slogans and waved placards in demonstrations that started in Asia and the Pacific, spread across Africa, Europe and Latin America, before culminating in the United States where Thunberg rallied.

"Change is coming whether they like it or not," said Thunberg, hitting out at sceptics as she wrapped up the massive day of action in New York, where she said that 250,000 protested.

Strike organisers 350.org said Friday's rallies were the start of 5,800 protests across 163 countries over the next week.

"If we actually try to make a difference we can. It's not too late yet," said 12-year-old Annabelle Abramowitz in New York, where 1.1 million students were permitted to skip school for the event.

Demonstrations across Asia and the Pacific kicked off the day of action, which spread to Africa and Europe, with crowds turning out in Paris, London and Berlin, before nearing their completion in the United States where Thunberg rallied.

From Berlin to Boston, Kampala to London, Seoul to Sao Paulo, protesters brandished signs with slogans including "There is no planet B" and "Make The Earth Great Again."

Children in Australia help kick off a historic global day of action seeing young people demand
Children in Australia help kick off a historic global day of action seeing young people demand adults move faster to tackle climate change. (Photo: AFP/Peter Parks)

In Slovakia, five-year-old Teo asked a crowd of 500 "not to cut down forests, and reduce garbage production, and not to use so many petrol-fuelled cars."

"TAKE RESPONSIBILITY"

Thunberg called on leaders to act now to curb gas emissions.

"Now we have proven what we can do, now they have to prove what they can (do). They need to take their responsibility," said the Swede.

In New York's Battery Park, tens of thousands of supporters gave Thunberg a rockstar reception, chanting her name as she called on leaders to act now to curb gas emissions.

"Why should we study for a future that is being taken away from us?" she asked. "We demand a safe future. Is that really too much to ask?"

On Saturday, she and 500 other youth environmentalists from around the world will take part in the first-ever Youth Climate Summit.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel used Friday to pledge at least 100 billion euros by 2030 to tackle emissions in the energy and industrial sectors, boost zero tailpipe emission electric vehicles, and get passengers out of planes and onto trains.

Pacific Islanders march in Sydney in one of the first protests in a global day of action on climate
Pacific Islanders march in Sydney in one of the first protests in a global day of action on climate change. (Photo: AFP/Peter Parks)

Events began in the deluge-threatened Pacific Islands of Vanuatu, the Solomons and Kiribati, where children chanted: "We are not sinking, we are fighting."

The defiant message was heard across the globe as children closed their textbooks in a collective call to action.

"We are the future and we deserve better," 12-year-old Lilly Satidtanasarn, known as "Thailand's Greta" for her campaign against plastic bags in malls, told AFP in Bangkok.

Children in Bangkok take part in climate action strike
Young demonstrators take part in the "Global Climate Strike" protest in Bangkok on Sep 20, 2019. (Photo: AFP / Dene CHEN)

In India, schoolchildren rallied in New Delhi and Mumbai while thousands protested in the Philippines, which experts say faces threats from rising sea levels and increasingly violent storms.

About 200 marched in Ghana's capital Accra, where about 44 per cent of the country's population has not heard of climate change, according to a study by Afrobarometer.

"Developing countries like Ghana are the most affected. We don't have the resources to adapt to climate change," said 26-year-old protest organiser Ellen Lindsey Awuku.

Swedish teen Greta Thunberg has become the poster child for a new youth-led climate change protest
Swedish teen Greta Thunberg has become the poster child for a new youth-led climate change protest movement. (Photo: AFP/Olivier Douliery)

CLIMATE CHANGE SCEPTICS

Several thousand protested in Brazil, where banners slammed President Jair Bolsonaro over recent devastating fires in the Amazon rainforest.

In Mexico City, protesters wore wrestling masks and skeleton costumes associated with the country's Day of the Dead celebrations.

Organisers said more than 300,000 children, parents and supporters rallied in Australia alone.

Australia has been struck in recent years by droughts, more intense bushfires, devastating floods and the blanching of the Great Barrier Reef - phenomena experts have blamed on a changing climate.

The protests also highlighted resistance from climate change skeptics.

"The facts are, there is no link between climate change and drought, polar bears are increasing in number," said Australian ruling coalition parliamentarian Craig Kelly Thursday.

The Fridays for Future movement has seen children lead the global debate on climate change
The Fridays for Future movement has seen children lead the global debate on climate change. (Photo: AFP/Peter Parks)

BUSINESSES TAKING ACTION

An increasing number of businesses backed the protests.

Amazon chief Jeff Bezos pledged on Thursday to make the US retail giant carbon neutral by 2040 and encouraged other firms to do likewise.

A rally in Germany as part of the Fridays For Future movement ahead of the September 20 global day
A rally in Germany as part of the Fridays For Future movement. (Photo: AFP/Lennart Stock)

Friday's mass action set the scene for a range of high-profile climate events in New York.

A Youth Climate Summit will take place at the United Nations on Saturday.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will then host an emergency summit on Monday in which he will urge world leaders to raise their commitments made in the 2015 Paris climate accord.

The agreement saw countries pledge to limit the long-term rise in the average temperature of the Earth to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels, and if possible, to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

A landmark UN report to be unveiled next week will warn that global warming and pollution are ravaging Earth's oceans and icy regions in ways that could unleash misery on a global scale.

Source: AFP/ec

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