Massive protests on eve of climate summit

HOT UNDER THE COLLAR: A melting planet in an ice-cream cone is held up during the Global Climate March in Berlin on the eve of the official opening of the 195-nation UN climate summit in Paris today. Picture: AFP
HOT UNDER THE COLLAR: A melting planet in an ice-cream cone is held up during the Global Climate March in Berlin on the eve of the official opening of the 195-nation UN climate summit in Paris today. Picture: AFP

Strong message sent ahead of Paris meeting

TENS of thousands of people, from Sydney to Berlin, joined one of the biggest global days of climate change activism yesterday 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 symbolise absent marchers after attacks by Islamic State militants killed 130 people on November 13 and led France to ban a protest that was meant to be at the heart of the global action.

Organisers said the Vatican sent a pair of shoes on behalf of Pope Francis.

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 today until December 11.

In Sydney, about 45 000 people are estimated to have marched through the central business district towards the Opera House.

Among them was Sydney’s mayor Clover Moore, who tweeted it was the largest climate march ever held in the harbour city.

Protesters held placards reading: “There is no Planet B” and “Say no to burning national forests for electricity”.

One activist, dressed in white as an angel with large wings, held a sign: “Coal Kills”.

US President Barack Obama and China’s Xi Jinping will be among more than 140 world leaders attending the start of the COP21 summit.

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 they plan to form a human chain, with about 3 400 people joining arms along a 3km route through central Paris from the Place de la Republique to Place de la Nation.

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. Alix Mazounie, of French Climate Action Network, said a human chain would not violate the state of emergency. “This is not civil disobedience,” she said.

Many activists want a phase-out of fossil fuels and a shift to 100% renewable energies by 2050.

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