More than 3,500 global protests led by young people including Swedish activist Greta Thunberg took place in 150 countries across the world on Friday to demand scaled-up action to tackle a worsening climate crisis.
It was biggest day of international climate action since this time last year. Most outdoor rallies were socially distanced because of Covid-19, while many more events took place online.
Ms Thunberg attended a rally outside the Swedish parliament, while scientists based in the Arctic and the Antarctic also supported the day of action, underlining the threat arising from melting ice sheets in polar regions due to record temperatures caused by carbon emissions.
“Fridays For Future and the youth climate movement are striking again around the world, in a safe way and following Covid-19 guidelines, to demand those in power treat this like the urgent crisis it is,” she said.
“The main hope is . . . that people will start becoming more aware,” said the 17-year-old. The coronavirus outbreak has prevented the movement she inspired from holding its mass rallies in recent months, lowering its public profile.
The protests started earlier in the Arctic, when British climate activist and ornithologist Mya-Rose Craig stood on a piece of ice broken off from the ice cap.
The 18-year-old founder of Black2Nature said she believed it was the most northerly climate strike ever; her group encourages inner-city children from black and ethnic minority backgrounds to explore nature.
“Being on a tiny ice floe like this and just floating in the middle of a sea of slush has really just reminded me how delicate the Arctic is,” she said from north of the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard.
"The climate crisis requires a rapid gear change in all areas to break away from polluting technologies and carbon-intensive industries," said May Boeve director of the environmental NGO 350.org.
“We need our governments to bail out people and the planet . . . create good jobs, advance environmental justice, and support livable communities,” she added.
Instead of a traditional protest, Fridays For Future Cork gathered placards from people across the county and spread them out across a location in Cork city "to show the climate movement has not gone away, even in light of the pandemic".
Will there be a decade of action?
Meanwhile as the UN also marked the fifth anniversary of sustainable development goals, more than 1,000 Irish people called for “these planet-saving objectives to be at the heart of Ireland’s national and local government plans”.
Their Project Us report, produced with the support of Irish Aid and co-authored by Concern Worldwide and the University of Limerick, has captured the views and recommendations of Irish people on issues such climate change, gender equality, poverty and hunger.
It is hoped Project Us will help kick-start a decade of action led by Ireland showing other countries what must be done to achieve the UN's 17 goals "to create a safer and more peaceful world by their own deadline of 2030", said Concern Worldwide head of active citizenship Michael Doorly.
One of the key recommendations is that Ireland become a global leader in tackling the climate crisis by going beyond “short sighted political cycles” and introducing progressive laws and policy measures. “The time to act is now,” he added. – Additional reporting: Reuters