‘Millions’ protest in youth-led global climate strike

A boy holds up a placard during a rally calling for action to guard against climate change in Tokyo. (Kyodo News via AP)
Updated 21 September 2019

‘Millions’ protest in youth-led global climate strike

  • Some four million people filled city streets around the world, organizers said
  • Teen activist Greta Thunberg: Change is coming whether they like it or not

NEW YORK: Masses of children skipped school to join a global strike against climate change that teen activist Greta Thunberg said was “only the beginning,” ahead of a UN youth summit she will participate in Saturday.
Some four million people filled city streets around the world, organizers said, in what was billed as the biggest ever protest against the threat posed to the planet by rising temperatures.
Youngsters and adults alike chanted slogans and waved placards in demonstrations that started in Asia and the Pacific, spread across Africa, Europe and Latin America, before culminating in the United States where Thunberg rallied.
“Change is coming whether they like it or not,” said Thunberg, hitting out at skeptics as she wrapped up the massive day of action in New York, where she said that 250,000 protested.
Strike organizers 350.org said Friday’s rallies were the start of 5,800 protests across 163 countries over the next week.
From Berlin to Boston, Kampala to Kiribati, Seoul to Sao Paulo, protesters brandished signs with slogans including “There is no planet B” and “Make The Earth Great Again.”
In New York’s Battery Park, tens of thousands of supporters gave Thunberg a rockstar reception, chanting her name as she called on leaders to act now to curb gas emissions.
“Why should we study for a future that is being taken away from us?” She asked. “We demand a safe future. Is that really too much to ask?”
On Saturday, she and 500 other youth environmentalists from around the world will take part in the first-ever Youth Climate Summit.
Then on Monday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has convened a Climate Action Summit where more than 60 world leaders will take to the podium to present greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals.
Events began Friday in the deluge-threatened Pacific Islands of Vanuatu, the Solomons and Kiribati, where children chanted: “We are not sinking, we are fighting.”
The defiance reverberated across the globe as kids closed their textbooks in a collective call to action.
“We are the future and we deserve better,” 12-year-old Lilly Satidtanasarn, known as “Thailand’s Greta” for her campaign against plastic bags in malls, said in Bangkok.
Schoolchildren rallied in India while thousands protested in the Philippines, which experts say faces threats from rising sea levels and increasingly violent storms.
About 200 marched in Ghana’s capital Accra, where some 44 percent of the country’s population has not heard of climate change, according to a study by Afrobarometer.
“Developing countries like Ghana are the most affected. We don’t have the resources to adapt to climate change,” said 26-year-old protest organizer Ellen Lindsey Awuku.
In Slovakia, five-year-old Teo asked a crowd of 500 “not to cut down forests, and reduce garbage production, and not to use so many petrol-fueled cars.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel used Friday to pledge at least €100 billion by 2030 to tackle emissions in the energy and industrial sectors, boost zero tailpipe emission electric vehicles, and get passengers out of planes and onto trains.
Several thousand protested in Brazil, where banners slammed President Jair Bolsonaro over recent devastating fires in the Amazon rainforest.
And in Mexico City, protesters wore wrestling masks and skeleton costumes associated with the country’s Day of the Dead celebrations.
Organizers said more than 300,000 children, parents and supporters rallied in Australia alone.
Australia has been struck in recent years by droughts, more intense bushfires, devastating floods and the blanching of the Great Barrier Reef — phenomena experts have blamed on a changing climate.
The protests also highlighted resistance from climate change skeptics.
“The facts are, there is no link between climate change and drought, polar bears are increasing in number,” said Australian ruling coalition parliamentarian Craig Kelly Thursday.
Businesses also backed the protests.
Amazon chief Jeff Bezos pledged Thursday to make the US tech giant carbon neutral by 2040 and encouraged other firms to do likewise.
A landmark UN report to be unveiled next week will warn global warming and pollution are ravaging Earth’s oceans and icy regions in ways that could unleash misery on a global scale.
Speaking to reporters Friday, Guterres acknowledged Monday’s summit would not solve everything.
“My main objective is to make as much noise as I can, and to do as much as I can to support as many actors involved in this as I can, especially in relationship with the youth,” he said.


Peaceful, prosperous, strong Bangladesh in Pakistan's interest, says envoy

Updated 27 January 2020

Peaceful, prosperous, strong Bangladesh in Pakistan's interest, says envoy

  • Pakistan's high commissioner to Bangladesh says more people-to-people contact necessary

DHAKA: Islamabad wants to enhance “people-to-people” contacts with Dhaka and boost bilateral relations in the areas of trade, business, education, culture and sports, Pakistan’s high commissioner to Bangladesh told Arab News on Thursday.
Imran Ahmed Siddiqui arrived in Dhaka this month after being appointed to the role in November, filling a post that had been vacant for nearly 20 months.
“In addition to government-to-government ties, my endeavor will be to promote and strengthen people-to-people contact as well as bilateral, economic, trade and cultural ties between our two countries,” Siddiqui said. He added that he had sensed a “similar desire among the people and the government of Bangladesh.”
At the end of British colonial rule of India in 1947, the territory of what is now Bangladesh became East Pakistan, politically united with West Pakistan but separated from it by hundreds of kilometers of Indian land.
East Pakistan broke away to become Bangladesh after a war between India and Pakistan in 1971 that killed nearly 3 million people. Relations between Islamabad and Dhaka have remained frosty since.
In 2019, Bangladesh imported goods worth around $736 million from Pakistan, while the country’s export volume was around $44 million, according to the State Bank of Pakistan.
Siddiqui said: “There’s huge potential that still remains to be explored and tapped. We have to work in partnership to facilitate frequent productive engagements between our commercial sectors, including robust participation in each other’s trade exhibitions and shows, and closer collaboration between the chambers of commerce and industry.”
The two countries also need to work together to address issues relating to their business visa regimes, he added.
“While Pakistan has already upgraded Bangladesh to Visa Category A, a similar measure by the Bangladesh government could help promote frequent interaction between our business communities, which is a prerequisite for strong trade relations,” Siddiqui said.
The Bangladeshi cricket team is currently playing a three-match T20 series against Pakistan at Gaddafi Stadium in the Pakistani city of Lahore. The third match of the series will be played next Monday.
Siddiqui said the Bangladeshi cricket team’s Pakistan tour is the beginning of a new era of friendship between the two nations. It will enable them “to further promote constructive bilateral engagements at all levels,” he added.
“I believe this cricket series will look more like a sporting event between two brothers and friends, rather than a fight between two rivals,” he said.
“This visit will generate mutual goodwill and friendliness, and will bring our two nations even closer.”
Siddiqui expressed appreciation for the “hospitality” of the Bangladeshi government toward more than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state after a military-led crackdown in August 2017 that the UN has said was perpetrated with “genocidal intent.” Myanmar denies this.
Siddiqui said Pakistan is “constructively engaged” with different international organizations on the issue of Rohingya refugees, including the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
“We’ve noted with appreciation the hospitality offered by the Bangladesh government to a large number of refugees, as we ourselves have been sheltering, in the recent past, the highest number of refugees in the world,” he added, referring to Pakistan’s large population of Afghan refugees.
“We support all efforts for the return of refugees in safety and dignity. Pakistan is closely monitoring international developments in this regard, and will remain engaged in the future too.”
He said Pakistan views Bangladesh with “respect, affection and admiration,” adding that “a peaceful, prosperous and strong Bangladesh is in our interest.”