Sunday’s People’s Climate March saw hundreds of thousands of people across the world take to the streets to demand greater global commitment to fighting climate change, two days before about 120 world leaders are scheduled to meet at a United Nations climate change summit, which begins Tuesday at the organization’s New York headquarters.
The movement, which drew an estimated 600,000 participants to a range of events across the globe, had strong support from countries throughout Latin America, which has experienced climate change-driven weather catastrophes like hurricanes and floods and continues to deal with the effects of extractive industries like oil and mining as well as deforestation and illegal logging in some of the world’s most pristine ecosystems.
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Activists from around the world traveled to the main event in New York, which involved around 310,000 people, according to organizers, including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Sting. Simultaneous events were held in more than 2,700 cities in more than 160 countries, from Istanbul to Johannesburg to Sydney.
A delegation from Peru, which is scheduled to host the COP20 environmental summit in December, added its voice to those of the New York marchers. Members of the group held photos of Peruvian environmental activists, including the indigenous leader Edwin Chota, who was murdered two weeks ago, presumably for his opposition to illegal logging in his community’s territory.
Peru has faced sharp criticism from local and international environmental organizations for the government’s permissive policies around mining. A new law passed earlier this year that will make it easier for mining companies to gain concessions to land is widely seen as a huge blow to Peru’s ability to protect its territory and the people living in what is already one of Latin America’s most heavily mined countries.
The Peruvian organizers, many of whom belong to the local People’s Summit movement, announced a follow-up march for December 10, planned to coincide with the COP20 summit in Lima.
COP20 is the last major international climate change forum before COP21, scheduled for 2015 in Paris, which many organizers and global leaders hope will result in new global guidelines and regulations for environmental policy.
“New York is just the beginning of an impressive movement leading toward COP20 in Lima and from there onwards to COP21 in Paris,” Rosa Guillén, a spokesperson for the Peoples’ Summit, told Perú 21. “Citizens are demanding actions, not words.”
Brazil, which faces serious concerns about water usage, natural resources and deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, drew several hundred people to Rio de Janeiro’s famous Ipanema beach despite a strong rainstorm. The attendees held signs with slogans like “Reduce, reuse, recycle” and demanded a commitment to clean energy and an end to deforestation.
Argentina’s capital of Buenos Aires also organized its own event, with demonstrators dressed in green and white marching to the country’s congressional building.
Organizers in Chile combined a local march with political actions. Members of the a climate change action group submitted a work plan to the national congress outlining ways the country can improve environmental policy and reduce emissions, particularly in the areas of transportation and energy production, two major culprits contributing to pollution in Chile.
In the Colombian capital of Bogotá, several hundred demonstrators dressed in blue and green shirts, carrying signs and Colombian flags, gathered in a park before marching through the streets, which were blocked off to traffic for the city’s weekly Ciclovía. Organizers estimated that up to 5,000 people joined the march along the way.
The city’s mayor, Gustavo Petro, also offered his support to the movement, briefly joining the marchers and speaking to the crowd about the importance of “changing the city paradigm” through environmentally-friendly measures like recycling and decreasing emissions from public transport.
Meanwhile, Costa Rican bicycling enthusiasts took advantage of the march to promote greater use of bicycles to cut down on carbon emissions and more bike-friendly infrastructure in the Central American nation.
Puerto Rico and a number of Caribbean nations also organized local climate change events and demonstrations.