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29.11.2019 Europe

Europe joins climate protests ahead of UN meeting

By RFI
Stephane Mahe/Reuters
NOV 29, 2019 EUROPE

Tens of thousands of protesters hit the streets of Europe, Asia and Australia on Friday to make a fresh call for action against global warming, hoping to raise pressure on world leaders days before a UN climate summit.

Carrying signs that read "One planet, one fight" and "The sea is rising, so must we", thousands flocked to Berlin's Brandenburg Gate for the latest "Fridays for Future" protest inspired by 16-year-old campaigner Greta Thunberg.

Some 30,000 mainly young people also gathered in Hamburg and another 17,000 in Munich to voice alarm at rising temperatures.

In France, climate activists focused their anger on the "Black Friday" sales bonanza with protesters blocking a distribution centre of online retail giant Amazon outside Paris and others near Lyon and Lille.

"More than ever we need acts of civil disobedience because Amazon has become a symbol of impunity," added the Euro MP Manon Aubry.

Protesters in Paris also formed a human chain at La Defense shopping mall that prevented shoppers from reaching stores, to highlight the climate costs of consumerism.

Around 1,700 turned out in Madrid, the host city of next week's 12-day COP25 conference, which aims to encourage governments to increase their commitments to cut emissions and combat climate change.

Several hundred young people also took to the streets of Lisbon, where Thunberg is expected to arrive shortly before making her way to Madrid.

Toxic smoke
The latest round of global climate demonstrations kicked off in bushfire-ravaged Australia, where hundreds rallied outside the Sydney offices of the Liberal party.

The target of their ire was Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who said earlier this month the suggestion "individual actions of Australia" had an impact on the fires "doesn't bear up to credible scientific evidence".

Protests also took place in Tokyo, where hundreds marched through the teeming Shinjuku district.

"I feel a sense of crisis because almost no one in Japan is interested," said 19-year-old student Mio Ishida.

Missed targets
In Delhi, about 50 school and college students marched to the environment ministry in the world's most polluted capital, carrying placards and chanting slogans demanding that the government declare a climate emergency.

"This is about doing something that you believe in," said 23-year-old Saumya Chowdhury. "We want the government to acknowledge this and have a conversation on this issue with people."

Scientists have warned that efforts to cap warming to 1.5 Celsius (34.7 degrees Fahrenheit) are failing and that carbon emissions -- which are on the rise -- would need to fall 7.6 percent a year to meet the target.

Carbon-neutral EU
In a bid to put the environment at the top of its agenda, the European Parliament on Thursday declared a climate and environment emergency.

Incoming EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has promised to make carbon neutral policies the bedrock of EU law. Under the Paris Agreement, the EU has committed the bloc to a carbon-neutral economy by 2050.

Von der Leyen is pushing to cut emissions in half by 2030 and, in early December, she is due to roll out her Green Deal for Europe package detailing how the EU will be able meet its emissions targets on time.

“Symbolically the EU vote [declaring a climate emergency] is very important as it indicates the European parliament wants to see the European Commission come with real measures,” said Wendel Trio, director of the Climate Action Network – Europe's largest NGO coalition working on climate and energy issues.

“Now it is up to the commission to do so, because just declaring emergency and not acting upon it is not the way forward … We want an adequate reply from the European Commission within the next few weeks to really show they are serious.”

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