Tens of thousands rally in Europe, Asia before UN climate summit

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Protesters march to demand action on climate change, on the streets in Lagos, Nigeria, on Nov. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
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Students and activists hold placards with messages as they participate in a Global Climate Strike rally calling for urgent measures to combat climate change in New Delhi, India, on Nov. 29, 2019. (REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis)
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Philippine activists take part in a rally in Manila calling for action against climate change on November 29, 2019. (AFP / DANTE DIOSINA JR)
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Demonstrators carry posters and shout slogans as they march through Lisbon, Portugal, during a worldwide protest demanding action on climate change on Nov. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)
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Extinction Rebellion climate change protesters call for action on climate change by staging an event against the fashion industry outside a shopping centre in Istanbul on Nov. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Updated 30 November 2019

Tens of thousands rally in Europe, Asia before UN climate summit

  • About 630,000 people demonstrated across more than 500 cities in Germany alone
  • Scientists have warned that efforts to cap warming to 1.5 Celsius are failing and that carbon emissions

BERLIN: Tens of thousands of protesters, primarily in Europe and Asia, hit the streets on Friday to make a fresh call for action against global warming, hoping to raise pressure on world leaders days before a UN climate summit.
Carrying signs that read “One planet, one fight” and “The sea is rising, so must we,” thousands flocked to Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate for the latest “Fridays for Future” protest inspired by 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg.
In total, about 630,000 people demonstrated across more than 500 cities in Germany, the Fridays for Future movement said.
In Hamburg alone, some 30,000 mainly young people gathered and another 17,000 congregated in Munich to voice alarm at rising temperatures, police said.
Thunberg, meanwhile, was on a boat sailing across the Atlantic, but tweeted a photo of herself holding a sign that said “School strike for climate.”
Rallies took place across Europe, although on a smaller scale than during September’s wave of “climate strikes” when organizers said some four million people filled city streets around the world.
Approximately 1,700 turned out in Madrid, the host city of next week’s 12-day COP25 conference, which aims to encourage governments to increase their commitments to cut emissions and combat climate change.
In France, climate activists focused their anger on the “Black Friday” sales bonanza with protesters blocking a distribution center of online retail giant Amazon outside Paris and others near Lyon and Lille.
Protesters in Paris also formed a human chain at La Defense shopping mall that prevented people from reaching stores, to highlight the climate costs of consumerism.
The Dutch branch of “Fridays for Future” said demos were taking place in around 15 cities, culminating in an evening march in Amsterdam where protesters would observe a moment’s silence for victims of the climate crisis.
Several hundred young people also took to the streets of Lisbon, where Thunberg is expected to arrive shortly before making her way to Madrid.
Turnout was low in the United States and Canada, with the protest taking place during the American Thanksgiving holiday weekend. A demonstration in Washington drew about 50 people, another in New York had 100.
“It’s important to keep showing up, keep being out there and talking to people about how this is not a problem that can go away, unless we address it head-on,” said 24-year-old Frank Fritz in Washington.
New York police arrested 23 anti-consumerism protesters who staged a sit-in outside Macy’s department store.
In Montreal, environmental groups distributed second-hand clothing.
“We are trying to create an eco-responsible movement against mass consumption, so we are giving away clothes for free to encourage people to consume less,” protester Germain Desloges told AFP.
The latest round of global climate demonstrations kicked off in bushfire-ravaged Australia, where hundreds rallied outside the Sydney offices of the Liberal party.
The target of their ire was Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who said earlier this month the suggestion that “individual actions of Australia” had an impact on the fires “doesn’t bear up to credible scientific evidence.”
“Our government’s inaction on the climate crisis has supercharged bushfires,” said school strike leader Shiann Broderick, as Sydney was once again enveloped in toxic smoke from the fires.
Australia, with a population of almost 25 million, has low carbon emissions compared with the planet’s biggest polluters but is one of the world’s leading coal exporters.
Protests also took place in Tokyo, where hundreds marched through the teeming Shinjuku district.
“I feel a sense of crisis because almost no one in Japan is interested,” said 19-year-old student Mio Ishida.
“I was really inspired by Greta’s actions.”
In Delhi, about 50 school and college students marched to the environment ministry in the world’s most polluted capital, carrying placards and chanting slogans demanding that the government declare a climate emergency.
“This is about doing something that you believe in,” said 23-year-old Saumya Chowdhury. “We want the government to acknowledge this and have a conversation on this issue with people.”
India is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gases and has 14 of the 15 most polluted cities in the world, according to a UN study.
Some 200 nations are meeting in the Spanish capital from Monday for talks on finalizing the “rulebook” for the 2015 Paris climate treaty, which becomes operational in 2021.
Scientists have warned that efforts to cap warming to 1.5 Celsius are failing and that carbon emissions — which are on the rise — would need to fall 7.6 percent a year to meet the target.
The United Nations has reported that greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere, the main driver of climate change, hit a record high last year.
The UN has also warned that global temperatures are on track to rise almost 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, which could make some places virtually uninhabitable.


Sanders attacked for past praise of communist regimes

Updated 17 min 27 sec ago

Sanders attacked for past praise of communist regimes

  • Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg and Pete Buttigieg all seized on visits Sanders made to the USSR, the Sandinista-controlled Nicaragua and Fidel Castro’s Cuba in the 1980s
  • Joe Biden: He (Sanders) seems to have found more inspiration in the Soviets, Sandinistas, Chavistas, and Castro than in America

WASHINGTON: Bernie Sanders’ past praise of communist regimes like Cuba and the Soviet Union has come back to haunt him, his rivals for the Democratic White House nomination seeking to paint the frontrunner as a friend of left-wing dictators.
Fellow Democratic hopefuls Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg and Pete Buttigieg all seized on visits Sanders made to the USSR, the Sandinista-controlled Nicaragua and Fidel Castro’s Cuba in the 1980s as evidence he is a threat to the US democratic and capitalist system.
Sanders, who describes himself as a “democratic socialist,” was pressed on CBS’s “60 Minutes” program on Sunday about positive comments he made three decades ago about communist states, particularly his statement that Castro had vastly improved education and health care in Cuba.
“We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba, but you know, it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad,” the 78-year-old politician said.
“When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?“
Biden, who Sanders has edged out as the 2020 Democratic frontrunner, fired back:
“Make no mistake: Bernie Sanders’ comments on Fidel Castro are a part of a larger pattern throughout his life to embrace autocratic leaders and governments across the globe,” the centrist former vice president said in a statement.
“He seems to have found more inspiration in the Soviets, Sandinistas, Chavistas, and Castro than in America.”
Buttigieg compared Sanders to President Donald Trump who he said has “cozied up to dictators,” adding the country needs a leader “who will be extremely clear in standing against regimes that violate human rights abroad.”
With Sanders in pole position heading into South Carolina’s primary this weekend, the controversy offers his rivals a precious chance to halt his momentum when they clash on the debate stage later on Tuesday.
Sanders’ alignment with the far left in US politics has always left him vulnerable to attack; Trump and other Republicans have branded him a “communist.”
But his Cuba comments have come to the forefront in the fight for voter support in Florida, home to a large Cuban-American population strongly opposed to Castro’s regime and holding substantial political sway in the southern state.
Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York mayor, targeted that electorate as he tweeted that Castro “left a dark legacy of forced labor camps, religious repression, widespread poverty, firing squads, and the murder of thousands of his own people.”
“But sure, Bernie, let’s talk about his literacy program,” Bloomberg said.
Sanders’ denies any support for dictators. Critics say his record suggests otherwise.
As mayor of the small city of Burlington, Vermont, he visited Nicaragua in 1985 and afterward hailed Daniel Ortega’s revolution against the Central American country’s landowner elite.
That was a view commonly held among the American left, especially as the administration of Ronald Reagan supported the right-wing Nicaraguan Contra fighters accused of numerous terror-like atrocities.
In 1988 Sanders visited Russia seeking to establish a sister-city pact with Yaroslavl, northeast of Moscow.
It was hardly unique: there were several dozen US-USSR sister city relationships at the time, according to Sister Cities International.
Upon his return, Sanders applauded Russian gains in health care, while adding they were 10 years behind the United States.
He said his hosts were friendly and spoke honestly about problems, especially in housing and struggling industries.
He offered no praise of the government and communist system, and noted Russians very much liked Reagan, who had just days earlier held a summit with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, which Sanders called “a major step forward for humanity.”
Likewise after visiting Cuba in 1989, Sanders praised its achievements in education and health care, calling Castro’s revolution “profound,” but also noting the lack of political freedoms.
“The question is how you bring both economic and political freedom together in one society,” he said at the time, according to the Rutland Daily Herald.
Sanders’ position echoes that of president Barack Obama, who reestablished diplomatic relations with Cuba in 2015, with Biden as his vice president.
Obama said on a landmark 2016 Havana visit that the government “should be congratulated” for its achievements in education and health care — while criticizing its human rights violations and communist-rooted economy which he said was “not working.”
Sanders told “60 Minutes” that his support for certain achievements in communist countries did not make him a friend of repressive leaders.
“I don’t trade love letters with a murdering dictator,” he said, referring to Trump’s friendship with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
Whether that carries with Cuban voters in Florida remains an open question.