Thousands protest global warming amid UN climate conference
Tens of thousands of people demonstrated Saturday in Montreal, host of the UN Climate Change Conference, to demand that governments worldwide take concrete measures against global warming.
Similar protests were expected in about 30 cities across the world, but organizers said the biggest crowd would be in Montreal, where the UN conference started Monday.
"We are 40,000 today, and we are really proud of you," march leader Florent Vollant told the crowds. "You braved the cold to come, and it's important because the world is watching us."
Demonstrators want countries to negotiate a long-term plan to boost the battle against climate change.
They are also pressing Canada to lead actions against global warming and urging it to exceed its commitments in the Kyoto Protocol.
Some 10,000 delegates and members of environmental groups are meeting here for the UN Climate Change Conference ending December 9.
The controversial Kyoto protocol, aiming to cut greenhouse gas emissions, became fully operational on Wednesday after the conference adopted the final rules.
The 34 signatory countries -- which do not include the United States or Australia -- passed the final regulatory measures by consensus.
So-called greenhouse gases, notably carbon dioxide, which is generated by burning of fossil fuels like gas, oil and coal, enlarge an atmospheric layer that blocks radiant heat from escaping Earth into space.
Scientists worry that the resulting increased temperatures are melting polar ice caps and heating tropical seas, with unknown and possibly disastrous consequences for Earth's weather, flora and fauna.
US environmental groups on Saturday presented the US consulate here with 600,000 signatures on a petition seeking US action on global warming, organizers said.
"We are here representing the people of the United States who want action to be taken," said Ted Glick, of the Climate Crisis Coalition.
"Sixty percent of the American people want action taken on global warming," he said.
He said the 600,000 came from 190 cities in the United States.
"It is clear that there's a distinction between what the people of United States want to do on this issue and where the Bush administration is," said Chris Miller, of Greenpeace USA.
"And it's also really important that the countries and the delegates that are here to move forward are not be waiting for the Bush administration to engage on this issue."
Harlan Watson, head of the US delegation, was blunt in rejecting US inclusion in Kyoto-style agreements.
"The United States is opposed to any such discussions," he told reporters last week.
Washington has since 2002 embarked on a voluntary policy to reduce its emissions by 18 percent without harming the US economy, he said.
The United States refused to ratify the Kyoto agreement, which called for reduction by six percent of emissions from their 1990 levels, saying it applied more stringently to developed countries than to developing ones.
The United States, with five percent of the world's population, emits 25 percent of the world's greenhouse gases.All rights reserved. © 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.