Melbourne, Sep 20 : Hundreds of thousands of protesters, many of them school students, have gathered in towns and cities across Asia-Pacific, kicking off a day of worldwide protests calling for action against climate change ahead of a United Nations summit.
From the Pacific Islands to Australia and India, protesters took to the streets on Friday, demanding their governments take urgent steps to tackle the climate crisis and prevent an environmental catastrophe, said an Aljazeera report. Organisers estimated 300,000 people turned up for the "global climate strike" in Australia, the world's largest exporter of coal and liquid natural gas.
Protests were staged in 110 towns and cities across the country, with crowds calling on the government to commit to a target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swede who inspired the climate strike, tweeted her support.
"Incredible pictures," she wrote from New York. "This is the huge crowd building up in Sydney. Australia is setting the standard!" Protests are planned in some 150 countries on Friday and will culminate in New York when Thunberg, who has been nominated for a Nobel prize for her activism on climate change, leads the march in the city where the United Nations has its headquarters. The UN Climate Action Summit brings together world leaders to discuss climate change mitigation strategies, including the move from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.
'I want to live'
In Canberra, the Australian capital, a 12-year-old primary school student told an estimated 10,000 people said she and her classmates had decided saving the planet was more important than classes.
"Politicians worry about us not going to school," said Alison. "But we're learning about the world, the danger we're in and what we can do about it. We know it's important to go to school and learn, but we know it is more important to save the planet for future generations to learn on."
Sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Whitbread attended the Canberra protest with a banner saying she was "hoping for a cooler death".
"I'm here because I want to live," she said. "We all have the right to the life we set out to have. I don't want to die young."
Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack said students should be in school.
"These sorts of rallies should be held on a weekend where it doesn't actually disrupt business, it doesn't disrupt schools, it doesn't disrupt universities," McCormack told reporters in Melbourne. "I think it is just a disruption," he added.
Australia's conservative government - while stopping short of outright climate change denial - has sought to frame the debate as a choice between jobs or abstract CO2 targets.