Ahead of the opening of the United Nations General Assembly, tens of thousands of people on Sunday rallied in the city of New York, United States calling for urgent action by authorities against climate change.
Africa Today News, New York reports that protesters who were drawn from some no fewer than 700 organisations and activist groups took part in Sunday’s rally, shouting that humanity’s future depended on ending fossil fuels and carrying signs reading, ‘Fossil fuels are killing us’ and ‘I didn’t vote for fires and floods’.
Many of the angry protesters also aimed their wrath directly at United States President Joe Biden who is seeking re-election next year, urging him to stop approving new oil and gas projects, phase out current ones and declare a climate emergency with larger executive powers.
“We hold the power of the people, the power you need to win this election,” said 17-year-old Emma Buretta of Brooklyn of the youth protest group Fridays for Future. “If you want to win in 2024, if you do not want the blood of my generation to be on your hands, end fossil fuels.”
The rally, dubbed the March to End Fossil Fuels, was the opening salvo to New York’s Climate Week, where world leaders in business, politics and the arts gather to try to save the planet.
Organisers estimated that some 75,000 people joined Sunday’s event.
The march featured politicians such as US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and actors Susan Sarandon, Ethan Hawke, Edward Norton, Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon.
“We have people all across the world in the streets, showing up, demanding a cessation of what is killing us,” Ocasio-Cortez told a cheering crowd. “We have to send a message that some of us are going to be living on on this planet 30, 40, 50 years from now. And we will not take no for an answer.”
A UN climate report released this month named 2025 as the deadline for global greenhouse gas emissions to peak – followed by a sharp drop thereafter – if humanity is to keep global warming in line with targets set in the 2015 Paris Treaty. The Paris agreement has successfully driven climate action, but “much more is needed now on all fronts”, said the report, which will underpin a crucial climate summit in Dubai at the end of the year.
Achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 – another Paris goal – will also require phasing out the burning of all fossil fuels whose emissions cannot be captured or compensated.
While promising billions of dollars for renewable energy projects, Biden has made a historic push for green manufacturing. However, some youth campaigners claim that he has not pushed firmly enough to help the US move away from its reliance on fossil fuels.
Environmental groups estimate that US interests will be involved in over one-third of the global oil and gas drilling scheduled between now and 2050. Although China now emits more carbon pollution annually, the US has contributed more heat-trapping carbon dioxide to the atmosphere over the past century than any other nation.
Top world scientists warn that the world is likely to experience new record heat in the next five years and that global temperatures are more likely than not to breach a crucial threshold of an average 1.5C rise.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has organised a Climate Ambition summit for Wednesday, during the General Assembly, at which he hopes to accelerate the ongoing work to counter climate change by governments as well as private sector organisations and financial institutions.
“History will remember their action, or inaction,” said Mejia. “And if we’re lucky, human beings will be around to remember what [world leaders] did in this summit.”