Activists stage global climate protest, slam Ukraine war
BERLIN (AP) — Climate activists staged a 10th series of worldwide protests Friday to demand that leaders take stronger action against global warming, with some linking their environmental message to calls for an end to the war in Ukraine.
The Fridays for Future movement, inspired by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, called demonstrations from Indonesia to Europe and the United States.
In Jakarta, activists dressed in red robes and held placards demanding “system change not climate change.”
Others held a banner saying “G-20, stop funding our extinction,” a reference to the fact that the Group of 20 biggest developed and emerging economies accounts for about 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Indonesia hosts the group’s next summit this fall.
In Rome, protesters carried a giant inflatable globe through the streets and a banner reading “Make school, not war.”
Some 300 protests were planned in Germany, which has taken in about 250,000 Ukrainian refugees in the past month.
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Thousands of mostly young people, many carrying Ukraine’s yellow and blue national flag, marched through Berlin’s government district to the Brandenburg Gate — long a symbol of the Cold War division between East and West.
Those speaking at the Berlin rally included two young Russian activists, who denounced their government’s actions in Ukraine.
“There are a lot of Russian people who are against (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, and they do not support what Putin is doing,” Polina Oleinikova told The Associate Press.
Oleinikova, 19, said that people who speak out against the government in Russia now “risk to be imprisoned on a daily basis.”
“It is very scary and we are afraid, but still we are (doing) our activism because we feel that it is very important,” she said. “It is the right thing to do and we won’t stop.”
Fellow climate activist Arshak Makichyan said the war in Ukraine and the sanctions imposed on Russia by the West were also having a drastic impact on the Russian economy
“Everything we had is collapsing,” he said, adding that he hoped Putin would be forced to resign and brought to trial.
Ilyess El Kortbi, a 25-year-old who helped set up Fridays for Future Ukraine, praised his fellow activists from Russia for speaking out.
“They are doing the best they can,” he told the AP. “Even if their regime is authoritarian and really repressive, they still continue standing with us against Putin.”
El Kortbi, who managed to flee just before the Russian advance reached his home city of Kharkiv, appealed to Germany and other European countries to stop buying fossil fuels from Russia.
“The war in Ukraine could stop anytime,” he said. “The EU and especially Germany just need to stop financing this.”
That message was echoed by many Germans at the march, frustrated that their country is paying tens of millions of euros (dollars) a day to buy fossil fuels that contribute to Moscow’s war chest even as the burning of oil, gas and coal harms the planet.
“We are here today to show that peace and climate justice belong together,” said Clara Duvigneau, a student from Berlin.
She said Germany should invest in renewable energy rather than seek alternative sources of oil and gas from places such as the Gulf or the United States.
“We want the energy transition to happen as quickly as possible,” said Duvigneau.
Several hundred young people gathered in Paris, marching from the domed Pantheon on the Left Bank to the Bastille plaza.
They carried signs reading “Wake Up” with a drawing of a burning Earth, calling on French presidential candidates to do more to fight climate change, or accusing French oil company TotalEnergies of cozying up to Putin for its refusal to pull out of Russia.
In Washington, D.C., demonstrators gathered in Lafayette Square, across from the White House, before marching toward the U.S. Capitol.
A few hundred young people showed up, many carrying signs and placards, including one that read, “Fossil fuels fund war. Green energy now.”
Sophia Geiger, 19, an activist with Fridays for Future, said she wants President Joe Biden to declare a national climate emergency — a repeated demand by environmental groups since Biden took office.
Geiger, who is taking a year off from her education to focus on climate action, said, “Even though he acknowledges this is a crisis, he does not act like it.”
Associated Press writer Suman Naishadham contributed from Washington, D.C.
Follow AP’s coverage of climate issues at https://apnews.com/hub/climate and of the Russia-Ukraine war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine