MADRID — The global climate strikers that have driven up public pressure on politicians over the past year have arrived at the COP25 climate talks in Madrid ahead of a major protest march on Friday.
At a press conference organized by the Fridays for Future movement, youth campaigners from Chile, Canada, Switzerland, Tasmania, Korea and Nigeria said they will keep striking until political leaders change course.
“It is time for action and it has been for too long. We are here together and continue to strike until world leaders not only hear us but listen to us,” said Toby Thorpe, a 17-year-old activist from Tasmania.
“COP25 prides itself on the slogan ‘Time for action’ — that means it’s time to move beyond politics, money and greed,” he said.
Efforts by youth protestors to call out what they see as government inaction is putting politicians in a bind, and has left them scrambling to show that progress is happening, if slowly. Chile’s COP presidency promised this COP would be all about ambition, having said it wants to push governments to increase their climate commitments next year.
Patricia Espinosa, the U.N.’s climate chief, said Wednesday that she understands the frustration of the movement.
“We are not where we need to be in order to be able to make sure that we will get to the goal of 1.5 degrees by the end of the century,” she said at a press conference. “That’s a fact.”
Grassroots organization 350.org, which is also organizing the protest on Friday, said Wednesday that “10,000’s of people are expected to join parallel demonstrations taking place in Santiago, Chile and Madrid, Spain to coincide with the U.N. climate talks.”
Swedish youth climate icon Greta Thunberg is expected to speak at the event in Madrid. She arrived in Lisbon on Tuesday after sailing across the Atlantic following the cancellation of the original COP25 meeting in Santiago, Chile.
“I think people are underestimating the force of angry kids,” she said. “We are angry, we are frustrated and that is because of a good reason … What we are demanding is, especially people in power, should listen to the science.”
The climate protests are a reaction to increasingly dire predictions of the impact of global warming and stark reports showing that, despite frequent summits and flowery promises, the world isn’t making enough progress in halting greenhouse gas emissions.
The World Meteorological Organization warned Tuesday that the years since 2010 have been a decade of “exceptional global heat, retreating ice and record sea levels” driven by rising greenhouse gases. New figures released Wednesday showed that global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel and industry are projected to grow by 0.6 percent in 2019 compared with 2018.
Espinosa cautioned against being too critical — arguing countries, cities and companies are moving forward.
“We need to acknowledge the efforts that are happening. This is important because we also need in this agenda to have some signals of hope … The only thing we cannot do is give up,” she said.
Youth campaigner Joel Pera, from the indigenous Mapuche people in Chile, told Wednesday’s press conference: “Governments from the global north, those that contributed to climate change the most … need to increase the ambitions so we can keep to 1.5 degrees of global warming.”
“A massive climate movement is rising … We demand leaders not to defy us — the climate crisis is here and this is the time to act,” he said.