By Gabriella Borter
NEW YORK (Reuters) – With world leaders about to gather in New York for a UN Climate Action Summit next week, millions of young people from Australia to Iceland will take off from school or work on Friday to demand urgent measures to stop environmental catastrophe.
Protests, inspired by the 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, are planned in some 150 countries. The aim is for students and others from around the world to speak in one voice about the impending effects of climate change on the planet.
“Soon the sun will rise on Friday the 20th of September 2019. Good luck Australia, The Philippines, Japan and all the Pacific Islands. You go first!” Thunberg posted on Instragram on Thursday.
Thunberg has galvanized young people around the world since she started protesting alone with a sign outside the Swedish parliament building in August 2018. Over the past year, young people in other communities have staged scattered strikes in solidarity with her Fridays for Future movement.
In conjunction with the UN summit this week, organizers on Friday will hold coordinated strikes around the world for a third time, with Thunberg spearheading a march and rally in New York, home of the United Nations headquarters.
In a show of support, New York City education officials will excuse the absences of any of its 1.1 million public school students who want to participate.
Demonstrators will gather in Lower Manhattan at noon and march about a mile to Battery Park at the edge of the financial district for a rally featuring speeches and music.
Thunberg, who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in March, sailed to New York from England aboard a zero-carbon emissions vessel to partake in the UN summit.
It brings together world leaders to discuss climate change mitigation strategies, such as transitioning to renewable energy sources from fossil fuels.
Global warming caused by heat-trapping greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels has already led to droughts and heatwaves, melting glaciers, rising sea levels and floods, scientists say.
Carbon emissions climbed a record high last year, despite a warning from the U.N.-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in October that output of the gases must be slashed over the next 12 years to stabilize the climate.
Organizers said the demonstrations would take different forms, but all aim to promote awareness of climate change and demand political action to curb contributing factors to climate change, namely carbon emissions.
Demonstrators in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa planned to dance on the beach in a celebratory pledge to protect their natural heritage. Protesters in Istanbul were heading to a public park for a climate festival with concerts and workshops scheduled throughout the day.
On Wednesday, Thunberg appeared before several committees of U.S. Congress to testify to the next generation’s view on climate change. In lieu of testimony, she submitted a 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that urged rapid, unprecedented changes in the way people live to keep temperatures from rising 1.5C by 2030.
“I want you to unite behind the science. And then I want you to take action,” she said.
(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York; Editing by Frank McGurty and David Gregorio)