By Cate Calogero and Monica Medina
Yesterday, 30,000 school children again turned out for protests in three cities across Belgium after an open letter to the government from 3,450 Belgian scientists saying “the activists are absolutely right”. Children’s climate rallies and protests are spreading across Europe — taking place in Germany and Switzerland too with the #FridaysForFuture, according to the BBC. There was even a sit-in at the Scottish Parliament.
- This past Sunday over 150,000 people took part in climate marches throughout France and Belgium to pressure both country’s governments to stop delaying policies to combat climate change and global warming.
- Over 80,000 people demonstrated in marches throughout France while in Belgium, more than 70,000 protestors brought the city of Brussels to a standstill.
- The march in Belgium was the country’s largest climate march ever and had to start a half hour early to ease packed train stations.
- In Paris, protestors braved the wind and cold to stand in Place de la République in a show of force for the climate.
- In the French city of Lyon more than 1,000 people formed a human chain and marched hand in hand through the city. Some wearing the now-famous “yellow vests” and others wearing face masks saying that the air was too dirty to breathe.
The demonstrations are riding the heels of France’s successful climate marches in September, October, and December. Protest organizers are pressing the French government to act, citing France’s increasing CO2 emissions as well as failure to enact lasting climate policies at COP24. Protestors in Belgium want to elevate the issue to the top of the list of topics to discuss at the European Council summit which will be held in Brussels on the 21st and 22nd of March. They are calling on Council members to meet a target goal of a 65 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
- The organization in charge of the French climate marches also launched an online petition to sue the French government if they do not take action against global warming and climate change.
- The petition currently has more than 2 million signatures and organizers hope to reach three million.
The marches on Sunday kicked off what organizers hope to be a successful year of marches throughout France and Europe. Organizers hope to have an even larger turnout for their march scheduled for March 16th, 2019 in Place de la République in Paris with marches scheduled for this same date all over France.
Why This Matters: The environmental movement, with climate change at its heart, is growing everywhere ensuring that it will be an issue in the next round of elections in Europe and the U.S. Like environmental movements of the past, it is fundamentally a grassroots, populist movement because the impacts are felt locally, even if the policies under fire are national. And young people are the impetus for it, just as in the past. Another core tenet of the movement now is social justice. Interestingly, in France, this puts the green movement and the “yellow vest” movement there more in alignment around issues of fairness and justice than people might think. They are both driven by a sense that the average worker is having a harder and harder time getting by in the face of forces beyond their control and they want the government to act — and now!
What you can do: Sign the French climate petition here! Vive la France!