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Marchers demand aggressive action on climate change

/ 07:24 AM September 10, 2018

VIRTUAL MARCH Environmental activists hold a hologram virtual march of more than 500 students, artists, clergy members and other advocates for climate action at Bantayog ng mga Bayani Memorial in Quezon City on Friday. —RICHARD A. REYES

Filipinos joined tens of thousands of people across the globe who took to the streets on Saturday to demand that governments step up action on global warming, even as UN climate talks tasked with breathing life into the Paris Agreement faltered.

About 300 members of 11 advocacy groups converged on Quezon City Memorial Circle to oppose the country’s dependence on “dirty” power sources.

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The groups, which formed Rise for Climate, Justice and Integrity of Creation, issued the call in the run-up to the three-day Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco starting on Wednesday.

Flor Assidao-Santos, spokesperson for Oriang Women’s Group, said her group joined the march to point out that the plight of the poorest sectors should be treated as a struggle of the entire nation.

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“The rising cost of rice and the importation of fish from other countries are symptoms of the neglect for our own natural resources and the small farmers and fishers who rely on them for their own livelihood,” Santos said.

The march was among the nearly 1,000 events in more than 90 countries that delivered a two-pronged message: speed up the shift to a world powered by renewable energy rather than planet-warming gas, oil and coal; and protect the people most vulnerable to rising seas and climate-enhanced extreme weather.

Rolling protest

The rolling, 24-hour protest peaked in San Francisco, where thousands snaked through the city chanting and carrying handmade signs and banners.

Many slogans were barbs from the heart of Blue America pointed at Washington.

“Alternative Energy, not Alternative Facts,” one slogan read, while another—more blunt—said: “More Science, Less Bullshit.”

“Defend democracy: impeach Putin’s poodle,” a third slogan read, taking aim squarely at US President Trump, who opted out of the landmark 2015 Paris climate treaty and has moved aggressively to dismantle the climate policies of his predecessor, Barack Obama.

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California — by some estimates the fifth-largest economy in the world — has committed ambitious goals for slashing carbon dioxide emissions over the next three decades.

Gov. Jerry Brown leads a coalition of subnational regions and cities also taking aggressive climate action.

But within his own state, Brown has come under attack for allowing the continued extraction of natural gas and oil under his watch.

‘Catastrophic summer’

In France, up to 115,000 people turned out in what may be the country’s largest environmental demonstration.

Clemence Dubois, the campaigner in France for 350.org, an umbrella organization for climate activists worldwide, called the march “proof that citizens are ready to demand commitments from our elected officials.”

A “catastrophic summer” of heat waves and wildfires across the northern hemisphere made many people realize that climate change is already upon us, she added.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres joined in on Twitter.

“Extreme weather is threatening our children. The only way to protect our future is ambitious #ClimateAction now,” he tweeted.

Thai fishermen

Dozens of Thai fishermen and laborers whose livelihoods are threatened by rising sea levels kicked off the day of protests in Bangkok at the site of the UN climate talks.

“I came here today to ask the government to put coastal erosion on the national agenda,” said 58-year-old fisherwoman Aree Kongklad.

The Paris treaty enjoins nations to cap the rise in global temperatures at “well below” 2 degrees Celsius and promises $100 billion per year from 2020 in climate finance to the world’s most vulnerable nations.

But sharp divisions between rich and developing countries—especially over money—have deadlocked the technical talks, tasked with hammering out a draft “rule book” that ministers and heads of state can push across the finish line at a UN climate summit in December.

More than 10,000 people turned out in Danish capital Copenhagen, while 1,300 rallied in front of the European Parliament in Brussels.

‘Go fossil free’

“The idea was to challenge the elected officials and governments in the European capital,” teacher Kim Le Quang said at the demonstration.

“There are a lot of lobbies here and we realize that NGOs do not necessarily have the influence to fight them,” Kim added.

As part of protests in Australia, a tall ship moved through Sydney Harbor in front of the Opera House as activists on board held up protest signs.

Its billowing sails featured banners that read “Rise for Climate Action with 350,” referring to the advocacy group 350.org.

Along with Bangkok, Manila is projected to be among the world’s urban areas hardest hit by climate change.

“We are among the most vulnerable and we are among those still stuck in an energy system that is backward,” campaigner Chuck Baclavon told Agence France-Presse (AFP), adding that the government is out of excuses.

Around 10,000 school students and their teachers in northern India tied red ribbons to trees in a call to end deforestation. —Reports from Melvin Gascon and AFP

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TAGS: Climate Change, Paris agreement, Rise for Climate
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