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Tens of thousands rally in Belgium climate march

By AFP
October 11, 2021
Tens of thousands rally in Belgium climate march

BRUSSELS: Tens of thousands of protesters joined the first major climate march in Brussels since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, weeks before a major climate summit.

Police said initial estimates suggested at least 25,000 marchers walked a three-kilometre route from the city’s North rail station to the Cinquantenaire Park. Organisers said the number of participants was 70,000.

"It is time for systemic change with radical action. It’s about the survival of humanity," climate activist Anuna De Wever told VRT television. About 80 activist groups under the banner "Climate Coalition" called for the protest, which saw Belgian politicians also taking to the streets.

"The climate is a socioeconomic story. We now have to stand up for the climate, the bill should not be paid by my generation," said Conor Rousseau, chief of Flanders social democrat party Vooruit.

The protest took on an added significance after devastating floods in July killed dozens in Belgium. "Politicians die of old age, Rosa died of climate change," said one banner referring to a 15-year-old who was swept away by a river in July.

The march takes place just weeks before the UN COP26 climate conference in Glasgow. That meeting will see governments try to thrash out further commitments to limit the warming of the Earth to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius as laid out in the 2015 Paris climate accord.Cyclists, families with children, and white-haired demonstrators filled city streets, chanting slogans demanding climate justice and waving banners in English, French and Dutch. One carried a stuffed polar bear on her head.Environmentalists worry that the 26th Climate Change Conference of the Parties, known as the COP26, in Glasgow starting Oct 31 will produce policies that don’t do enough to slash carbon emissions and slow the warming of the planet.The crowd included a mix of people with and without masks. With one of the world’s highest vaccination rates, Belgium is starting to ease virus restrictions and allow such gatherings again. The Climate Coalition says that while unprecedented measures have been taken to tackle the coronavirus crisis in Belgium, little has been done to address climate change while this is much worse.

"We want coherent climate policies. Investment needs to be made in renewable energy, in insolating houses, better public transport and fossil fuels should no longer be subsidised” Zanna Vanrenterghem told journalists.

She added that previous marches had achieved some progress and pointed to the European Green Deal as an example of this. When asked if today’s march will achieve anything she said “We have a government that has some ambition. And look how many of us are here today”. The Climate Coalition currently has no further climate protests planned.

However, Youth for Climate’s Anuna De Wever announced on Sunday that her organised plans new “School Strike” protests, in which school children skip school to take part in protests for measures to tackle climate change.

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