With over 140 world leaders expected to attend the United Nations General Assembly this week, thousands of people gathered in New York on Sunday to call for an end to fossil fuels in response to the urgent climate crisis.
“Biden, End Fossil Fuels,” “We Can’t Eat Money,” “Fossil Fuels Are Killing Us,” and “I Didn’t Vote for Fires and Protests” read some of the banners carried by people of all ages during a two-kilometer march from 53rd Street to Broadway, culminating in front of the United Nations headquarters.
US President Joe Biden is among the world leaders participating in the UN General Assembly, which officially commences next Tuesday.
“We are here to demand that the administration declare a climate emergency,” urged Analilia Mejía, co-director of the Center for Popular Democracy, one of nearly 700 organizations involved in this initiative to eliminate highly polluting fossil fuels, the leading cause of global warming.
According to a UN climate report released on Friday, humanity must reach the peak of its CO2 emissions by 2025 to address the climate crisis effectively.
While some progress has been made since the signing of the 2015 Paris Agreement, the report asserts that “much more needs to be done on all fronts” and hopes that the Climate Summit to be held later this year in Dubai will focus on fossil fuels.
“The problem is so severe that we must wake up and take immediate action,” added the 46-year-old Mexican-origin activist, highlighting that recent extreme weather events, including wildfires in Canada, Hawaii, and Greece, toxic smoke emissions, floods in Libya, and record temperatures, have demonstrated the potential horrors of climate change.
Another young climate change leader, 22-year-old Nalleli Cobo, who has worked with Swedish activist Greta Thunberg on awareness campaigns, emphasized “the power we have as individuals” to “demand a habitable future, not only for this generation but also for future ones.”
Rather than making specific demands of leaders, she would simply invite them to “spend 24 hours in her home” near an oil and gas well in Southern California.
“I guarantee that after those 24 hours, they will see oil differently,” said the young woman, who, at 19, battled ovarian cancer, attributing it to the “toxic air” she had breathed.
“Our lives are at stake,” she warned.
In the United States, the state of California filed a lawsuit on Friday against five of the world’s largest oil companies, alleging that they caused billions of dollars in damages and deceived people by downplaying the climate risks of fossil fuels.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called for a Climate Ambition Summit on September 20 during the General Assembly in hopes of accelerating actions by governments, businesses, finance, local authorities, and civil society to address this issue.
“History will remember your action or inaction… If we’re lucky, humans will be around to remember what (world leaders) did at this summit,” Mejía challenged them.