KATOWICE - Fifteen-year-old Swedish teen Greta Thunberg started her environmental advocacy work as a solo act, when she refused to go to school in August in order to pressure her government to take more drastic climate action.
She has since inspired some 20,000 more students around the world to do the same, and on Saturday (Dec 8), she joined scores of other activists in a march calling on leaders and people all over the world to do more to combat global warming as the final week of the United Nations (UN) climate change conference - or COP24 - began in Poland.
"We have had conferences like this before, and nothing came out of it. There needs to be less talking, and more action," Greta told The Straits Times ahead of the march.
"The adults can't expect us to live with the mess they've left behind."
Beginning at 12.45pm from Wolnosci Square, some 1.5km from the COP24 conference venue, the march drew thousands of people of all ages and nationalities, carrying banners and signs with messages such as "1.5 deg C to survive", "no future in coal" and "save the humans".
Speaking to the crowd, Greta said: “We do need hope, of course we do. But the one thing we need more than hope is action.”
And act the protesters did, as they marched the 3km route – under the watchful eye of Polish police clad in anti-riot gear – while calling on world leaders at COP24 to adopt an ambitious and quick climate action plan to limit global warming to just 1.5 deg C above pre-industrial levels.
Filipino artist and Typhoon Haiyan survivor Amado Guerrero Jano, 43, told The Straits Times: "The world leaders like statistics. They like to talk about economics and business figures.
"But we refuse to be just statistics. There are human lives at stake. Three million were displaced during Haiyan. And if we don't limit global warming to 1.5 deg C, this will be multiplied by thousands."
Mr Jano had walked from the Vatican City in Rome to Poland over 65 days, arriving only on Friday night (Dec 7), to play his part in raising awareness about climate change.
The 24th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), or COP24, is particularly important as countries will be negotiating exactly how to implement the Paris Agreement, which was drawn up at COP21 in 2015.
The Agreement, signed by almost 200 countries, including Singapore, set out a framework for the world to pursue actions to limit global warming to at least 2 deg C above pre industrial levels, with a bolder target of 1.5 deg C, to avoid catastrophic climate change.
This year's meeting aims to flesh out the framework by coming up with a Paris Rulebook. There are many issues to be hammered out in the negotiations, including things like how the climate pledges of each country will be monitored; issues relating to finance for developing countries, and also transparency.
Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Singapore's Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, is due to arrive in Katowice on Monday (Dec 10), ahead of the high-level segment of the talks on Tuesday. He will deliver Singapore's national statement on Wednesday.