Huge turnout for climate change rallies

  • 30/11/2015
Protesters demonstrate in Berlin (Reuters)
Protesters demonstrate in Berlin (Reuters)

More than half a million people around the world took part in climate change marches over the weekend, a co-organiser says, with protesters urging politicians to take action.

From Sydney to Stockholm and Cairo to Cape Town, an estimated 570,000 took to the streets in 2300 separate events across 175 countries, a new record for a set of global marches, co-organiser Avaaz said on Sunday (local time).

The people-powered protests kicked off with marches across Australia, with 45,000 gathering in Sydney.

"There's nothing more important that I can be doing at the moment than addressing climate change," said Kate Charlesworth, a doctor and Sydney mother.

Around 50,000 marchers at London's Hyde Park on Sunday called for action on the eve of the United Nations climate summit in Paris.

At the London event, Oscar-winners and multimillion selling musicians rubbed shoulders with protesters from the Pacific islands to Scandinavia.

"This is very personal to me. This is to do with my land. This is to do with our people," said 37-year-old Mikaele Maiava from the Tokelau islands, a territory of New Zealand threatened by rising waters.

Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood was also on the march from Hyde Park to the British parliament as leaders from 150 countries prepare to meet in Paris to hammer out a plan to cut emissions.

Actress Emma Thompson, who has campaigned against oil drilling in the Arctic, said she had seen the effects of climate change during a visit there last year.

"It helped me understand in a much more visceral, real way what was happening to the planet," the actress told AFP.

"So I'm here today to really get behind the climate summit in Paris which is actually a really historical event.

Rocker Peter Gabriel, founder of the band Genesis, said climate change was "a serious threat" and said any pact negotiated in Paris should have a "real means of enforcing the talk, which I'm sure will be in abundance."

"Politicians want to get re-elected. If there's enough of us, and this is happening all over the world, then they will respond," he said.

In Copenhagen, some 5000 people marched to parliament.

In Stockholm, around 4000 people marched under grey skies, while in the Finnish capital Helsinki organisers reported a turnout of between 1500 and 2000 people.

Further south in Spain, some 20,000 marched in the Spanish capital, the biggest climate march in Madrid's history, Greenpeace said.

Activists formed human chains in Paris and Brussels, the latter made up of around 4000 people.

"I hope that this chain shakes all the politicians in Europe and the rest of the world to forge a deep and sincere deal," said protester Stephane Eelens.

In Berlin, around 15,000 marched from the central train station to the Brandenburg Gate, where a stage had been set up decorated with a globe clouded in black smoke.

Around 1000 people joined a march in Athens from the Acropolis to the parliament, carrying banners reading "Solarise Greece" or "Go renewable".

A group of 20 children led 10,000 people in Madrid, many holding green balloons and green hearts with messages that read "The Earth is Your Home" and "Help Me Be Happy".