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Climate activists in Davos say the main problems are being ignored

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DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) – In a small square in Davos, a picturesque Swiss town in the middle of the Alps, about 50 climate activists gathered on Thursday to draw attention to issues they said were largely ignored during the World Economic Forum meeting. weeks.

They said more attention needs to be paid to human suffering, especially in developing countries that are experiencing severe weather events such as heat and floods. They said there was no talk at all of reparations, often referred to as “loss and damage”, to poor countries that have made little contribution to global warming but are experiencing some of the worst consequences. Finally, they said that calls for the transition to renewable energy were empty, as they were not joined by talks on plans to phase out fossil fuels.

“Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Fossil fuels must go! ” some chanted at the meeting, about a 10-minute walk from the main convention center, where meetings between politicians, business leaders, academics, academics, journalists and others took place Monday through Thursday.

READ MORE: World Economic Forum returns to Davos after pandemic pause

The elite forum, the first personally since 2020, took place at a time when the world’s leading climatologists have warned that greenhouse gases need to be drastically reduced this decade to keep temperatures rising to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial period. times. Emissions such as carbon dioxide heat the planet, leading to weather destabilization and other problems.

Iles El-Cortby, a climate activist from Ukraine who fled to Germany after the Russian invasion in late February, said before arriving in Davos that the annual United Nations climate summits were “the worst places with empty words and empty promises.” What he saw here was worse.

“People have ignored the facts,” he said. “People kept talking as if nothing had happened, and children and families are dying every day in Ukraine and losing their future as I lost my future.”

ElCortby, who said two of his friends had died in the war, argued that the invasion would not have happened if the European Union had completely withdrawn from fossil fuels many years ago, as many scholars and activists have long advocated. ElCortby noted that a large amount of oil and gas used by Europe comes from Russia, so buying this energy essentially helps finance the war.

The forum did include a lot of discussions about climate change and the environment. Of the more than 270 panels, 90 of them, or about one-third, have been related to climate change, from biodiversity loss to technologies aimed at removing carbon dioxide from the air. These panels also included several youth climate activists such as Cassidy Miligrouac Kramer of Alaska, Helena Gualinga of Ecuador and Vanessa Nacate of Uganda.

Government officials such as US Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry and Danish Environment Minister Leo Vermelin have spoken out about the need to switch to green energy and hold companies accountable for their emissions. And there was an announcement to expand a large public-private partnership to buy green energy through supply chains of companies, all aimed at sending market signals to accelerate innovation.

But for young activists, who often argue that the younger generations will inherit climate change issues they do not face today, the problem was not a lack of discussion around climate change, but something that was not in the spotlight. There has been a lot of talk about economic growth, fear of recession and even green technology, but little about how to help people affected by climate change, they said.

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“Many people here are disconnected from reality,” said Nakate, who spoke to a small group of protesters. “They are in a bubble. They are in their world. “

In many ways, Davos is truly its own world. The city with a population of about 10,000 people, in one of the most expensive countries in the world, is popular for skiing in winter and hiking and other outdoor activities in summer. Boutiques and hotels are located on several central streets. Stunning mountain views, some with snow caps even in May, can be obtained from almost anywhere.

Activists who can come, either with sponsorship, or on their own, either stay in nearby cities where overnight stays are a little cheaper, or break into sleeping bags and tents in an area called the Arctic Base Camp. They and others, such as scientists, also participate in panels around the city that are not part of the World Economic Forum program.

“Was it worth it?” said Gualinga, an Ecuadorian activist who focuses on oil companies operating in the Amazon, reflecting on the week. “I think activists need to be here,” she said.

“We will not be able to find the necessary solutions if the people affected by climate change, from the fossil fuel industry, are not directly active in decision-making.”

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