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COP26: Hundreds of climate activists demonstrate in Brussels

11:57 01/11/2021

Around 500 people, according to Brussels-Ixelles police, gathered in front of Brussels Central train station on Sunday afternoon to participate in a demonstration organised by citizen movement Rise for Climate Belgium to coincide with the start of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

The procession – including a large youth contingent - set off at 13.00 under a collection of colourful and multilingual banners, and marched along Boulevard de l’Impératrice, Place de la Colonne du Congrès and Boulevard du Régent to the sound of protest slogans and a Brazilian fanfare.

Demonstrators called for stronger EU climate laws, greater protection for the Amazonian forest and an appeal to change the system rather than the climate. A group from Pepinster in Liège province joined the demonstration as a reminder of their ongoing difficulties three months after severe floods in the region.

On arrival at Place Luxembourg at 14.00, the numbers rose to between 500 and 1,000, according to organisers. A stage set up in front of the European Parliament hosted speeches by EU and local politicians, who called for a green recovery plan and expressed support for the action. Rise for Climate Belgium co-founder Kim Lê Quang underlined the importance of drinking water being available around the world and asked for a tax on financial transactions. “With this march on the first day of COP26, we want to encourage the European institutions to implement the Green Deal,” he added.

Rise for Climate Belgium artists' rally-Place Luxembourg-31 Oct 2021 (c) Sarah Crew

A series of musical performances by 13 young artists from Brussels and Wallonia, including Saule, Getch, Helora Rose and Charlotte (pictured above), continued all afternoon, although crowd numbers tapered off as rain set in.

Around a dozen associations participated in a ‘Climatinspirant Village’ in the square, all presenting positive eco-friendly initiatives.

Youth for Climate Belgium’s Paul Monier said the organisation was centred around fighting for a fairer system in general and not only for the climate. “We cooperate with other organisations in Belgium, we give information to a lot of people and we also want to shock the politicians in some way to make them change things.” Maya Scarcelli explained how on an individual level, she had adopted a vegan diet and small environmental changes to her lifestyle. “If everybody does a little thing then maybe the bigger organisations will hear us and that’s why I’m here today.”

A petition organised by Rise for Climate Belgium in favour of a more ambitious EU climate law, gathered more than 30,000 signatures.

Written by Sarah Crew