Climate activists call for Phoenix, cities around the world, to declare emergency

Climate activists hoist a banner declaring a climate emergency as they cross Washington Street in downtown Phoenix on Friday, Dec. 6. The activists joined others for a protest outside City Hall. (Photo by Jake Eldridge/Cronkite News)

By Deagan Urbatsch

PHOENIX – Climate change protesters gathered Friday afternoon in Phoenix and other Arizona cities, continuing the #FridaysforFuture climate strikes inspired by Greta Thunberg, who has reached international recognition since demanding action before Sweden’s parliament at age 15.

After a global climate strike in September, local group AZ Youth Climate Strike sought to keep the momentum. In the absence of meaningful state, national and international action, Friday’s protest at Phoenix City Hall was meant to pressure officials of Arizona cities and towns to declare a climate emergency.

“This strike is intended to stress the need for more city action as opposed to state action,” says Aditi Narayanan, who led Friday’s protest at Phoenix City Hall. (Photo by Jake Eldridge/Cronkite News)

Aditi Narayanan, 17, a senior at Basis Phoenix Central charter school, led a few dozen protesters on West Washington Street. Organizers set up booths with such slogans as “Arizona Needs a Green New Deal” and “This Is an Emergency.”

“This strike is intended to stress the need for more city action as opposed to state action,” Narayanan said. “One thing we want is for all cities to declare a climate emergency and have a climate action plan. Phoenix’s is lacking. It’s very outdated, from 2007. We’re asking them to update it to include new demands and needs because the city has changed.

“This is focused on very specific policies, the climate action plan and other ordinances. In terms of laws being passed, more needs to be done.”

The protests came in the wake of the Trump administration’s announcement Nov. 4 that the U.S. has begun the yearlong process to officially withdraw from the Paris climate accord by next fall. The agreement’s long-term goal is to keep the increase in global average temperature below 35.6 degrees Fahrenheit compared with pre-industrial levels.

After a global climate strike in September, local group AZ Youth Climate Strike kept the momentum going by protesting outside Phoenix City Hall on Friday, Dec. 6. (Photo by Jake Eldridge/Cronkite News)

The U.S. remains the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, behind China.

The United Nations is hosting the COP25 Climate Change Conference in Madrid through Dec. 13. Thunberg made an appearance there on Friday as part of the international protests.

“We are getting bigger and bigger, and our voices are being heard more and more, but of course that does not translate into political action,” Thunberg said. “I sincerely hope that world leaders, that the people in power, grasp the urgency of the climate crisis because right now it doesn’t seem like they are.”

A 2016 greenhouse gas emissions inventory showed Phoenix-wide emissions declined by more than 7% compared with 2012 levels. However, greenhouse gas emissions are set to hit an all-time high in 2019, according to a report from the Global Carbon Project, an international research group.

This story is part of Elemental: Covering Sustainability, a multimedia collaboration between Cronkite NewsArizona PBSKJZZKPCCRocky Mountain PBS and PBS SoCal.

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