Islamabad:Activists, civil society members, students, officials, and individuals from diverse backgrounds gathered in front of the National Press Club to participate in a climate solidarity march, advocating for climate justice and action ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference scheduled from November 30 to December 12, 2023.
The participants were holding placards bearing messages such as "Climate Justice Now" and "No more empty promises," while also engaging in chants, poetry recitations, and speeches to emphasize the urgent issue of the climate crisis.
The participants demanded that the government of Pakistan declare a climate and smog emergency, holding developed countries accountable and financially liable for their role in exacerbating the climate crisis. Climate justice activist Rida Rashid stressed the importance of addressing climate justice domestically too by holding accountable those responsible for encroaching upon indigenous lands and waters for profit-driven infrastructures.
Anam Rathor highlighted the need for Pakistan and the international community to provide legal recognition and protection to climate migrants and refugees, particularly in the context of the mass deportation of Afghan refugees and the consequences of climate change on their lives.
Representing the Progressive Climate Federation, Tawseef underscored a forgotten tragedy, stating, "30 million people were displaced across Pakistan by floods in 2022, and the world forgot as if their lives never mattered. They had dreams, homes, cultures, and everything taken away by something they had no contribution to."
The protesters called on global North governments and the United Nations to operationalize the loss and damage facility, pay reparations to vulnerable countries, and take decisive actions at COP28.
One of the protesters, spoke on the occasion, “I don’t want my children to face the worst of climate change, and be forced to spend their time worrying about it when they could just be kids instead. That’s why I protest, and will keep doing so until our government and corporations take action.”
Similar protests took place in Karachi, Lahore, Quetta, Mardan, Peshawar and Gilgit. The protesters chanted slogans of ‘Bachao Bachao – Lahore Bachao’, ‘Let the people Live in Lahore’, ‘Stop cutting trees’, ‘Stop `colourful trains’, ‘Complete development projects at the earliest’.
The protesters also distributed masks to create awareness among masses about air pollution and demanded the government take steps to clean the environment. Zainab Waheed, an organizer, urged against exploiting our own future, emphasizing the undeniable reality of climate change.
Dr. Imran Khalid from WWF concluded with a stark message, stating, "Within a single lifetime, the consumption of fossil fuels has brought us on the verge of a climate collapse. Now only a single lifetime can set things straight; our lifetime."
In a show of solidarity, the protesters also expressed support for Palestine, calling on the United Nations to take immediate steps for Israel to end the occupation and genocide of Palestine.
They further demanded the interim government of Pakistan uphold democratic values, halt human rights violations, and facilitate free and fair elections for the formation of a people-elected government to guide climate action in the country.