From Canada and the United States to southeast Asia, from Africa to Europe, tens of thousands of climate activists and concerned citizens held protests Friday through Sunday to call for an end to the burning of planet-warming fossil fuels as the globe suffers dramatic weather extremes and record-breaking heat.
The protests—led by several mostly youth-based, local and global climate groups and organizations, including Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future movement—took place in dozens of countries and hundreds of cities worldwide, The Associated Press reports.
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In Canada, hundreds of protesters showed up on Parliament Hill Friday afternoon, and thousands marched in Vancouver. Climate Action Network-Canada (CAN-Rac) said more than 50 communities across the country, from Halifax to Vancouver, were expected to rally through the weekend, and a map published by Fridays for Future Canada had the details.
“The effects of the climate crisis can be felt coast to coast to coast,” Chris Camaso of Climate Justice Victoria said in the CAN-Rac release. “From devastating fires across Vancouver Island to the destruction of our old-growth forests, it’s time to shift away from fossil fuels before it’s too late.”
“We will not let fossil fuel executives and bankers burn everything we love to the ground,” added veteran campaigner Aliénor Rougeot of Toronto. “Our homes, our health, and our loved ones are under attack.”
75,000 March in New York
In the United States, protesters aimed their wrath directly at President Joe Biden, urging him to stop approving new oil and gas projects, phase out current ones, and declare a climate emergency with larger executive powers, AP writes.
“We hold the power of the people, the power you need to win this election,” said 17-year-old Emma Buretta, a Fridays for Future member in Brooklyn. “If you want to win in 2024, if you do not want the blood of my generation to be on your hands, end fossil fuels.”
Organizers estimated 75,000 people took part in Sunday’s march. Among them was 8-year-old Athena Wilson from Boca Raton, Florida. She and her mother, Maleah, flew from Florida to attend the protest.
“Because we care about our planet,” Athena said. “I really want the Earth to feel better.”
People in the southern U.S., especially where the oil industry is, and the Global South, “have not felt heard,” said 23-year-old Alexandria Gordon, who is originally from Houston. “It is frustrating.”
Protest organizers emphasized how let down they felt that Biden, who many of them supported in 2020, has overseen increased drilling for oil and fossil fuels.
“President Biden, our lives depend on your actions today,” said Louisiana environmental activist Sharon Lavigne. “If you don’t stop fossil fuels our blood is on your hands.”
Higher Carbon Taxes, No More Meat
In Europe, several thousand people marched in Vienna, holding up signs demanding higher taxes for carbon emissions and an end to meat consumption, AP reports. Members of the student climate awareness group Last Generation sat down in front of parliament, and speakers called on government to quit oil and gas and pass laws to save the climate.
“We need national climate protection laws because Austria has a great responsibility, we have a historical responsibility for our emissions,” Global 2000 campaigner Anna Leitner said. “And at the same time Austria and Europe are the seat of international companies which don’t care about laws elsewhere in the world and pollute the environment and climate. That’s exactly why we need a supply chain law and we demand climate protection on all levels.”
“It’s one year since Russia started the war against Ukraine,” World Wildlife Fund spokesperson Thomas Zehetner said. “It’s still legal in Austria to install gas heating… We demand that a law needs to be passed as quickly as possibly which regulates the exit from oil and gas.”
Some 250 protests were held in Germany, including thousands of people who gathered at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and marched in a long procession through the city’s government district. One person carried a sign that read “March now or swim later.” Another sign read: “There is no Planet B.” Members of protest group Last Generation sprayed orange paint on the gate, and 14 were arrested.
Phaseout for the Philippines
In Quezon City in the Philippines, activists lay in front of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and held signs demanding fossil fuels—from coal to natural gas—be phased out. Outside the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources office in Jakarta, Indonesia, protesters held signs calling for end to dirty fuels and greenwashing as police officers looked on.
In Jammu, India, protesters played dead in a protest against deforestation.
In Sweden, climate activists gathered in front of parliament next to the Royal Palace where Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf was celebrating his 50th anniversary on the throne. Their chants about “climate justice” could be heard in the palace courtyard as the king watched the changing of the guard during the golden jubilee celebrations.
And in Congo, dozens joined a protest march through the city of Goma, shouting slogans and waving banners and placards calling for an end to corporate control of fossil fuels. The Congolese government caused an uproar among environmentalists last year by putting 30 oil and gas blocks up for auction, including 13 blocks crisscrossing through protected areas and national parks.
The Congo Basin forest absorbs 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide—about 4% of global emissions—some of which would be released into the atmosphere if the areas are cleared for oil and gas drilling, AP writes.
Way Off Track
A week before the planned protest, the United Nations warned that countries are way off track to curb warming to 1.5°C since pre-industrial times, as agreed in the Paris climate agreement in 2015. The world has warmed at least 1.1°C 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, and the Northern Hemisphere summer was declared the hottest on record.
Dozens of extreme weather events—from Hurricane Idalia in the southeastern United States to torrential flooding in Delhi, India—are believed to have been made worse by human-caused climate change.
In New York, the March to End Fossil Fuels featured U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and actors Susan Sarandon, Ethan Hawke, Edward Norton, Kyra Sedgewick, and Kevin Bacon, AP says. But the real action on Broadway was where protesters crowded the street, pleading for a better but not-so-hot future. It served as the opening salvo to New York’s Climate Week, where world leaders in business, politics, and the arts get together to try to save the planet, highlighted by a new special United Nations summit Wednesday.
But many of the leaders of the countries that cause the most heat-trapping carbon pollution will not attend the UN gathering or hear the protesters’ voices. And they won’t speak at the summit organized by Secretary-General António Guterres, since only countries that promise new, concrete action are invited to the podium.
Nearly one-third of the world’s planned drilling for oil and gas between now and 2050 is by United States interests, recent analysis shows. Over the past 100 years, the U.S. has put more heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than any other country, though China now emits more carbon pollution on an annual basis.
“You need to phase out fossil fuels to survive our planet,” said Jean Su, a march organizer and energy justice director for the Center for Biological Diversity.
Main segments of this report were published by The Associated Press and republished by The Canadian Press on September 17, 2023.