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Across the globe, millions join the biggest climate protest ever

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Millions of people demonstrated across the world yesterday demanding urgent action to tackle global heating, as they united across timezones and cultures to take part in the biggest climate protest in history.

Millions of people demonstrated across the world yesterday demanding urgent action to tackle global heating, as they united across timezones and cultures to take part in the biggest climate protest in history.

In an explosion of the youth movement started by the Swedish school striker Greta Thunberg just over 12 months ago, people protested from the Pacific islands, through Australia, across-south east Asia and Africa into Europe and onwards to the Americas.

For the first time since the school strikes for climate began last year, young people called on adults to join them – and they were heard. Trade unions representing hundreds of millions of people around the world mobilized in support, employees left their workplaces, doctors and nurses marched and workers at firms like Amazon, Google and Facebook walked out to join the climate strikes.

In the estimated 185 countries where demonstrations took place, the protests often had their individual targets; from rising sea levels in the Solomon Islands, toxic waste in South Africa, to air pollution and plastic waste in India and coal expansion in Australia.

But the overall message was unified – a powerful demand for an urgent step-change in action to cut emissions and stabilize the climate.

The demonstrations took place on the eve of a UN climate summit, called by the secretary-general, António Guterres, to inject urgency into government action to restrict the rise in global temperatures to 1.5C, as agreed under the 2015 Paris agreement.

Carbon emissions climbed to a record high last year, despite a warning from the UN-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that there is little more than a decade left to act to slash emissions and stabilize the climate.

Donald Trump will be at the UN headquarters during Monday’s key summit on the climate crisis – but will be there to take part in a meeting on religious freedom instead, in what will be seen by many as a snub.

On Friday, the voices of key political leaders were noticeable by their absence. Instead, it was a day for people to set forth their demands, ranging from a ban on new mining in countries like South Africa and Australia to a “green new deal” in the UK and US to better air quality and more trees in countries like India.

“We are out here to reclaim our right to live, our right to breathe and our right to exist, which is all being denied to us by an inefficient policy system that gives more deference to industrial and financial objectives rather than environmental standards,” said Aman Sharma, a young protester in Delhi.

The action began in the Pacific Islands, where citizens have repeatedly asked wealthier nations to do more to prevent rising sea levels. Over the course of the day children and students from Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Marshall Islands, Tonga, New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea took part in poetry performances, silent protests, sporting events and discussions. Students held placards in Kiribati and chanted: “We are not sinking, we are fighting.”

The demonstrations spread across Australia – the world’s biggest exporter of coal and liquid natural gas – where more than 300,000 people took to the streets in 100 rallies, prompting a tweet from Thunberg – awake in New York – that the “huge crowd” would set the standard.

The Australian finance minister, Mathias Cormann, had said on Thursday that students should stay in class rather than go on strike.

In a retort, Danielle Porepilliasana, a Sydney high school student said: “World leaders from everywhere are telling us that students need to be at school doing work. I’d like to see them at their parliaments doing their jobs for once.”

In Tokyo, hundreds of students and environmental activists marched through the business and shopping district of Shibuya, chanting “Climate Justice!” while holding hand-painted placards made of cardboard with messages such as “Go Green,” ‘‘Save the Earth,” and “the Earth is on fire.”

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