Sunday’s Claim the Climate march in Brussels, with 65-75,000 people taking part (depending on who is estimating) was the biggest of its kind the country has ever seen, and dwarfed only by a march against nuclear weapons in 1983, and the White March against inaction against child abuse in 1996, which attracted 100,000. The Brussels Times gathered a number of reactions from those taking part and others looking on.
“This Sunday, the Climate Coalition and Climate Express will take our Belgian leaders to task with the goal of a more ambitious climate policy on the world, European and national levels. They will argue for a limit on global warming of 1.5°C, as the Paris Accords state.” – Nicolas Van Nuffel, president of the Climate Coalition
“Impressive and historic. We’re extremely happy, because this gives us a huge amount of hope for the future. It shows there’s a lot of support in Belgium for an ambitious climate policy.” – Charlotte Scheerens of Climate Express on the reported turnout
“The climate is changing, and we can all feel it. We are suffocating in our cities because of filthy air; every year we spend millions of euros to compensate farmers for the damage caused by drought, and this summer broke all records for high temperatures. We are confronted almost every day with images of forest fires and flooding across the world.” – Samuel Lietaer, spokesperson for Climate Express
“It warms my heart. We’re all in the same boat: if we don’t join together to fight climate change, we’ll be running towards disaster.” – Nancy, a 20-year-old student, quoted in La Libre Belgique
“To demonstrate and to save the world.” – a young boy asked by the VRT why he was present at the march
“I’m ashamed. We’ve really messed things up, the people from the Sixties like me. We led a wild life without thinking that we were squandering the resources of the earth. And now we’re being presented with the bill.” – an older gentleman, interviewed by the VRT
“Several thousand people get on board a Liege for Claim the Climate. Thank you, SNCB, for the increased capacity, even if the trains are filled to bursting.” – Noé Lecocq, a passenger, on Twitter. The rail authority was later criticised for not laying on enough trains
A number of politicians also either took part or commented from the sidelines.
“The march for the climate is a formidable success of civic mobilisation. The climate question has to be made a central preoccupation for the sake of future generations. Belgium has finalised its Climate energy Plan, and will defend its ambitious objectives.” – prime minister Charles Michel on Twitter
“What a crowd has turned out for the Claim the Climate demonstration in Brussels. A warning to those politicians who refuse to apply the Paris Accords!” Raoul Hedebouw, spokesperson for the national workers’ party PVDA
“People don’t realise the federal government has only a small share of the responsibility, and the rest is in the hands of the regions. Things are more complex than simply saying ‘the time for change is now’ or demonstrating against the government.” Federal environment minister Marie-Christine Marghem, asked if the march (in which she took part) was not a reproach to government policies