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Protesters rally around the world for action on climate change

Some companies are also changing the way they run their business in response to the climate crisis.
Protesters hold banners during the Global Climate Strike protest in Sydney, Australia. Image: David Gray, Bloomberg

A global protest movement backed by 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg got underway Friday, with students in Australia skipping school and workers walking off the job to demand action on climate change.

Tens of thousands of people attended a protest in a central Sydney park, holding up homemade signs with slogans such as “You’re Burning our Future” and “There Is No Planet B.” Protesters also rallied in Melbourne, Canberra and other Australian cities.

The Global Climate Strike movement — which calls on people to walk out of school or their workplace to protest inaction over climate change — is likely to gain strength later in the day, with events in Europe and the US planned. They’re part of a worldwide series of demonstrations that organisers say will take place in 150 countries on Friday and on September 27.

“As we deal with devastating climate breakdown and hurtle towards dangerous tipping points, young people are calling on millions of us across the planet to disrupt business as usual by joining the global climate strikes,” according to a statement on the Global Climate Strike website.

The movement has spurred some companies to demonstrate that they’re reacting to the threat posed by a warming planet. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos said Thursday the e-commerce giant will reach a target of 80% renewable energy use by 2024 and 100% by 2030, up from 40% today. Bezos also announced the formation of a new organization — the Climate Pledge — amid a steady drumbeat of criticism from activists and his own employees over Amazon’s dependence on fossil fuels and its approach to dealing with disruptions caused by climate change.

On the same day, Alphabet Inc. Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai said Google had agreed to buy 1.6 gigawatts of wind and solar power, a record purchase of renewable energy by a single company.

The largest franchisee of Swedish furniture retailer Ikea, Ingka Group, said it will generate a surplus of renewable energy next year after investing some 2.5 billion euros ($2.8 billion) in wind and solar power projects.

More than 1 500 Amazon employees are scheduled to take part in Friday’s walkout. Workers from Google and Microsoft Corp. also plan to join protests.

Australian companies

Friday’s protests are timed ahead of United Nations climate events, including the first Youth Climate Summit on Saturday and the Climate Action Summit of government, corporate and other leaders on September 23 in New York. Thunberg, who founded the “Fridays for Future” protest group, captured media attention by sailing across the Atlantic to address the youth event, rather than traveling by plane because of the emissions.

In Australia, the campaign has the backing of high-profile business leaders such as the billionaire co-founder of enterprise software company Atlassian Corp., Mike Cannon-Brookes.

“It’s up to every employee to decide whether they wish to attend,” the company said in a statement. “But every Atlassian deserves the freedom to be heard.”

Atlassian was among hundreds of Australian employers, including Melbourne-based law firm Slater & Gordon Ltd. and Sydney-based real-estate portal Domain Holdings Australia Ltd. that allowed workers to take time off to attend the rallies under a campaign titled “This is not business as usual.”

The call to action has resonated in Australia — the world’s driest inhabited continent that derives the bulk of its energy from burning coal. Parts of the country are in the grip of a drought, and wildfires have already broken out across forests and bushland in New South Wales and Queensland just days after winter officially ended.

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.


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