Tens of thousands of people joined one of the biggest global days of climate change activism yesterday, from Sydney to Berlin, to put pressure on world leaders to unite in fighting global warming at a summit in Paris.
About 20,000 pairs of shoes were laid out in the Place de la Republique in the French capital, from high-heels to boots, to symbolize absent marchers after attacks by DAESH killed 130 people on Nov. 13 and led France to ban a protest that was meant to be at the heart of the global action. More than 2,000 events were being held in cities including Sydney, Berlin, London, Sao Paulo and New York, making it perhaps the biggest day of climate action in history on the eve of the Paris conference, which runs from Nov. 30-Dec. 11. In Sydney, about 45,000 people were estimated to have marched through the central business district towards the Opera House. Among them Sydney's Lord Mayor Clover Moore, who tweeted it was the largest climate march ever held in the harbor city. Protesters held placards reading: "There is no Planet B," and "Say no to burning national forests for electricity".
U.S. President Barack Obama and China's Xi Jinping will be among the more than 140 leaders attending the start of the UN Climate Conference known as COP21. The leaders are expected to talk about their commitment to fighting climate change and reducing ever-rising carbon dioxide emissions. The climate negotiations happen as weather officials across the globe proclaim that this is the hottest year on record. And they say that Earth has crossed some significant climate thresholds. The world has warmed by about 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times and carbon dioxide levels now are pretty much permanently above the 400 parts per million mark, scientists say.
Activists in France scaled back their plans when the government imposed a state of emergency after the Paris attacks and banned the march in Paris on security grounds. But activists formed a human chain, with about 3,400 people joining arms along what had been the original 3-kilometer route through central Paris from the Place de la Republique to Place de la Nation. French riot police fired tear gas at climate change protesters at the Place de la Republique, near where climate change activists had earlier formed a human chain. About 200 protesters, some wearing masks, fought with police on a street leading to the square, which has become a gathering place for Parisians since the attacks in the capital on Nov. 13.
Meanwhile, underscoring security worries, France put 24 green activists under house arrest before the summit, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Saturday, saying they were suspected of planning violent protests at the talks.
Many environmental activists want a phase-out of fossil fuels and a shift to 100 percent renewable energies by 2050. Some marches were held on Friday and Saturday, from Melbourne to Edinburgh. "Don't be a fossil fool," one Australian banner said. In the biggest single march on climate change ever staged, last year organizers estimated 310,000 people took part in New York. On Saturday, faith groups delivered a series of petitions signed by 1.8 million people urging stronger action, collected on pilgrimages to Paris. "The time for talking is long over," said Yeb Sano of the Philippines, who walked 1,500 km from Rome.