Dressed as endangered fish or tigers or wearing toy polar bears on their heads, demonstrators marched through Brussels on Sunday to push world leaders to take bolder action to fight climate change at the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow starting this month.
Thousands of people and 80 organizations took part in the protest, aiming for the biggest such event in the European Union's capital since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, which stopped the climate movement’s weekly marches in its tracks.
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, and others were dressed as animals endangered by human-caused climate change.
“After you’ve seen all the disasters we have seen this summer, it’s really crucial that we move now. Because everybody knows what the problem is," said Xavier De Wannemaeker, a protester with Extinction Rebellion.
Scientists say there's little doubt that fuel emissions are contributing to extreme weather events like the droughts, fires, floods that have hit regions around the world this summer.
Demonstrator Lucien Dewanaga asked, “What do we do when we destroy the planet? We have nothing else. Human beings have to live in this world. And there is only one world.”
Environmentalists worry that the U.N.'s 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 12-day summit aims to secure more ambitious commitments to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius with a goal of keeping it to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. The event also is focused on mobilizing financing to fight climate change and protecting vulnerable communities and natural habitats.
The crowd at Sunday's protest 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.