MANILA: Thousands turned out for climate change marches across the Asia-Pacific region Saturday, part of a weekend of action across the globe to demand results from next week’s historic Paris summit.
Rallies in Australia, Bangladesh, Japan, New Zealand and the Philippines illustrated the broad array of concerns over the impact of climate change, from calls for renewable energy to the plight of Pacific islanders as sea levels rise.
Some 3,000 people including religious clergy, students and activists marched through the Philippine capital of Manila demanding curbs on emissions to mute the impact of climate change, which is blamed for a spike in disastrous extreme weather.
“Protect our common home,” and “climate justice,” were written on the placards held aloft by the surging crowd.
“We want to send a message to the rest of the world, especially the world leaders at the climate talks, to say that our survival is not negotiable,” said Denise Fontanilla, spokeswoman for the Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development.
Under tight security two weeks after France’s worst terror attack, some 150 heads of state and government will on Monday launch a highly anticipated UN conference tasked with inking a post-2020 195-nation climate rescue pact.
In Australia, where Melbourne on Friday kicked off the weekend rallies, some 5,000 people gathered in the northeastern city of Brisbane for a march led by Aboriginal and Pacific islander representatives and youth groups.
Senator Larissa Waters from the Greens party said the turnout, after tens of thousands marched in Melbourne, also showed the strength of opposition to plans to develop more of Australia’s vast coal deposits.
“They don’t want new coal mines, they don’t want massive land clearing, they actually want the environmental protection and job opportunities that comes from embracing clean energy,” Waters told national television.
Thousands also rallied across New Zealand, in the main city of Auckland and at the parliament in Wellington.
Speaking outside parliament, Anglican bishop Justin Duckworth said all citizens had a responsibility to protect the planet.
“I don’t want my future generation to clean up my mess. It is my responsibility,” he said according to the NZ Herald.
Around 300 people gathered in Tokyo for a rally urging the adoption of clean, renewable energy — a call that has grown since a tsunami swamped the Fukushima nuclear plant in 2011, sending three reactors into meltdown.
“Japan must take the lead in the summit to promote renewable energy because Japan is a rare country that has experienced such a big disaster,” rally organizer Daigo Ichikawa said.
And in Bangladesh, more than 5,000 people took part in climate marches across 30 different locations in the impoverished country which is exposed to rising seas, superstorms and expanding deserts.
Human chain in Paris
Organizers in Paris were expecting hundreds of thousands to take to the streets Saturday in Asian cities along with Johannesburg and Edinburgh, while similar events were set for Sunday in Seoul, Rio de Janeiro, New York and Mexico City.
In Paris, French authorities cancelled two rallies following the onslaught by gunmen and suicide bombers which killed 130 people at restaurant terraces, a concert hall and the national stadium on November 13.
Activists now plan to create a two-kilometer human chain along the original march route on Sunday. They will break the chain as they pass the Bataclan concert hall, where the worst violence claimed 90 lives, as a mark of respect to the victims.
The goal of the Paris talks is to limit average global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels by curbing fossil fuel emissions blamed for climate change.
This week, the UN’s weather body said the average global temperature for the year 2015 is set to touch the halfway mark at 1 C.
The Paris conference will gather some 40,000 people, including 10,000 delegates from 195 countries, plus journalists, observers, scientists, exhibitors and visitors.