Students around the world protest for climate action

Crowds of students — with total estimated numbers ranging between hundreds of thousands and millions — were taking to the streets around the world on Friday for a global strike demanding world leaders gathering at a UN climate summit adopt urgent measures to avert an environmental catastrophe.

The protests kicked off in the Pacific islands — some of the nations most threatened by rising sea levels — and Australia, where social media posts showed huge demonstrations around the country, from the big coastal cities of Melbourne and Sydney to outback towns such as Alice Springs.

Social media posts showed scores of demonstrations, ranging from a few dozen primary school children in Abuja, Nigeria, to tens of thousands of people in cities from Hamburg, in Germany, to Melbourne, Australia.

Britain’s opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted that 100,000 people joined the demonstration in London.

“Our future on your shoulders,” read one banner stretched across a street by students in Berlin.

Inspired by the 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, protests are planned in about 150 countries to call on governments to take immediate action to limit the harmful effects of manmade climate change.

Protesters took to the streets of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane calling for world leaders gathering at a UN Climate Action Summit to adopt urgent measures to stop an environmental catastrophe. 0:47

By early afternoon across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, crowds had gathered in many cities, including London, Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Warsaw, Stockholm, Helsinki, Beirut, Nairobi and Cape Town. At the same time, several thousand protesters — many of them high school age or younger — were marching to the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., carrying signs that read: “There is no Planet B” and “This can’t wait until I finish school.”

“We are skipping our lessons to teach you one,” read a placard carried by a student in London.

“Climate change is real, and it is coming for us, and it does not matter who you are,” said protester Kelly Robert Banda, among the crowd gathered at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park. “Whether you are rich or poor, this thing is real, and it does not isolate.”

Environmental activists hold signs as they take part in the protest calling for action on climate change in Nairobi. (Baz Ratner/Reuters)

The strike will culminate in New York when Thunberg, who has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for her climate activism, will spearhead a rally at the United Nations headquarters.

Thunberg noted the “huge crowd” in Sydney in a tweet, which she said would set the standard as the strikes moved across Asia, Europe and Africa.

By early afternoon, the Sydney protesters were overflowing out of a 34-hectare open space in the city. Similar crowds were reported in Brisbane and other state capitals.

Danielle Porepilliasana, a Sydney high school student, had a blunt message for politicians like Australian Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, who told Parliament on Thursday that students should stay in class.

“World leaders from everywhere are telling us that students need to be at school doing work,” she said, wearing anti-coal earrings. “I’d like to see them at their parliaments doing their jobs for once.”

People carry a giant globe with the inscription, ‘There is no planet B’ during a demonstration in Berlin. (Hayoung Jeon/EPA-EFE)

In Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel unveiled a major new climate protection package thrashed out by parties in her coalition in all-night talks.

Meanwhile, on the streets of the capital, Berlin, crowds gathered at the Brandenburg Gate, where three activists stood on blocks of ice beneath a mock gallows.

“A lot of people support our movement, but we want to go a step further, because politicians decide on our future,” said Janik Oswald, a German spokesperson for Fridays for Future, the school strike movement started by Thunberg in Sweden last year. “We urgently demand that something happens.”

‘A good sign and not at all a nuisance,’ Thai minister says

The UN summit brings together world leaders to discuss climate change mitigation strategies, such as transitioning to renewable energy sources from fossil fuels.

The issue is vital to low-lying Pacific islands, which have repeatedly asked wealthier nations to do more to prevent rising sea levels.

More than 200 young people in Bangkok stormed into the Environment Ministry demanding government action on climate change. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Children in the Solomon Islands rallied on the shoreline wearing traditional grass skirts and carrying wooden shields in solidarity with the global movement.

In Thailand, more than 200 young people stormed into the Environment Ministry and dropped to the ground feigning death as they demanded government action on climate change.

“This is what will happen if we don’t stop climate change now,” said 21-year-old strike organizer Nanticha Ocharoenchai.

The Thai Environment Ministry’s deputy permanent secretary, Adisorn Noochdumrong, supported the students.

“This is how the young people express their concerns, which we deem as a good sign and not at all a nuisance,” he said.

Indian activists and students gather for the protest against climate change in New Delhi. (EPA-EFE)

In Palangka Raya, in Indonesia’s Central Kalimantan province, youths carrying placards marched through heavy smog caused by forest fires.

In the eastern Indian city of Kolkata around 25 school children handed out flyers at busy bus terminals and held placards that read “Save Our Planet. Save Our World.”

“This is the only planet we have. We wanted to stand for it before we went to school for the day,” one of the children said.

‘Chinese youth have their own methods’

Global warming caused by heat-trapping greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels has already led to droughts and heatwaves, melting glaciers, rising sea levels and floods, scientists say.

Carbon emissions climbed to a record high last year, despite a warning from the UN-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in October that output of the gases must be slashed over the next 12 years to stabilize the climate.

Organizers said demonstrations would take different forms around the world, but all aim to promote awareness of climate change and demand political action to curb contributing factors.

No protests were authorized in China, the world’s biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, but Zheng Xiaowen of the China Youth Climate Action Network said Chinese youth would take action one way or another.

“Chinese youth have their own methods,” she said. “We also pay attention to the climate, and we are also thinking deeply, interacting, taking action, and so many people are very conscientious on this issue.”

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