Belgian activists launch 'longest climate protest ever' ahead of EU summit

Belgian activists launch 'longest climate protest ever' ahead of EU summit
Credit: Climate Coalition/Facebook

Young climate protesters in Belgium have embarked on a 60-hour demonstration as part of their relentless efforts to keep the pressure up on Belgian leaders and ahead of a key EU summit in December.

As part of a demonstration called '60 Hours for the Climate, a lineup of 60 young climate activists will take turns in leading solo stake-outs in front of the offices of Belgium's federal and regional governments, in Brussels, Wallonia and Flanders, on a day in which temperatures are not expected to exceed 5ºC.

Dubbed the "longest climate protest in history," organisers have said that the demonstration, which will be live-streamed, is the "final chance" to save the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The first stake-out began at 7:00 AM on Monday, with campaigners are set to relay each other throughout the end of their stunt as they seek to pressure Belgian leaders to reach a common and ambitious climate policy ahead of an EU Council summit on 11 and 12 December.

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"It is important that Belgium demands more climate ambition in the upcoming summit," said Adelaïde Charlier, one of the leading members of Belgium's Youth for Climate movement, after finishing her 8-9:00 AM shift in front of the Walloon parliament in Namur.

Led by over two dozen environmental action groups, including Greenpeace Belgium and Belgium's bilingual Climate Coalition, the demonstration is seeking to get leaders to enact policies capable of cutting back CO2 emissions by 60% by 2030.

"There is no more time to lose!" Greenpeace wrote in the launch statement of the demonstration, which coincides with a 2018 march for the climate which saw tens of thousands of residents take to the streets of the Belgian capital.

"This year, we cannot march in the thousands through the streets. So we are relaying in order to respect sanitary rules," Charlier told RTBF. "We are innovating in order to express ourselves."

"Experts say there is still time to cut our emissions by 60%. Several lawmakers are already calling for more ambition — Belgium is still to join that group," Nicolas Vanuffel, a spokesperson for the Climate Coalition, added.

Greenpeace is also calling on the broader public to express their support for the stunt and is aiming to gather at least 60,000 signatures and messages online.

While Vanuffel acknowledged that Belgium's so-called Vivaldi government has given off signals of greater climate ambition than the previous administration, he said that the 7-party coalition was still stuck in the "announcements stage."

"Now is the time to roll our sleeves up and get to action. €5 billion of EU aid have been earmarked to get us out of the current sanitary crisis," he said, referring to the funds set to go to Belgium," Vanuffel said. "The climate objectives must not be forgotten. This money must be used to help the economy transform."

"Every tenth of a degree counts in order to keep global warming from rising more than the [Paris Accord's goal of] 1.5ºC," he said. "By transforming our industries, isolating our homes or making our food more local and plant-based, great opportunities for new jobs and citizen engagement can emerge."

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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