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Australia, Pacific kick off global climate action

world Updated: Oct 10, 2010 08:44 IST

AFP
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With tree plantings in Australia's biggest city Sydney and gardening near its iconic Bondi Beach, hundreds took part on Sunday in what organisers say will be the world's biggest day of climate change action.

The 10/10/2010 event known as the "Global Work Party" kicked off in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific and is set to spin its way across the globe via more than 7,000 community events in 188 countries. "The only countries that aren't taking part, we think, are Equatorial Guinea, San Marino, North Korea so it's clearly the most widespread day of environmental action," co-founder of the 350.org campaign Bill McKibben said.

"And as far as we can tell, the most widespread day of civic engagement on any issue ever in the planet's history."

The events come as long-running United Nations efforts to broker a global deal on tackling the issue have stalled, and McKibben said while organisers had feared that people would be disillusioned by this, the opposite was true.

"People are discouraged but they are taking out their frustrations in action," he told AFP via telephone from Washington.

"They have decided that we are going to have to show our leaders what leadership looks like." In Australia, the call for practical action resulted in gardeners sharing tips on going green, bicycle rides to urge less use of carbon-polluting cars, the planting of trees and public talks on reducing household emissions.

One of the biggest events Down Under is expected to be a protest at a coal-fired power plant in Hazelwood, Victoria, in which hundreds of demonstrators are planning to carry models of solar panels.

In the Pacific, every island is taking part in the event, from the "no car" campaign in Tonga to cycling events in Papua New Guinea, tree planting in tropical Fiji and gardening in New Zealand, coordinator Aaron Packard said.

"Often I find the issue of climate change pretty depressing when you look into the details of it," he said. "But the thing that really gives me hope is the way the people of the Pacific have responded. It's just incredible because you know darn well they have done so little to contribute to climate change but they are some of the most vocal, the most willing, to get to work and do really inspiring things."

The 350.org campaign, named for the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that scientists say is the safe limit for humanity, is spearheading the actions around the world that take in Afghanistan, Russia and China. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, war refugees will plant a "Forest of Hope" while in Iraq, students will install solar panels on the roof of the University of Babylon.

More than 1,200 events are planned for the United States, and in China some 30,000 students will help launch the "Great Green Initiative" which local organisers say is "the largest grassroots, youth-led environmental campaign in China".