The protests in London, which were to be joined by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, are part of a worldwide day of action before leaders head to Glasgow for the U.N. Climate Change Conference, known as COP26. Many environmentalists are calling the Oct. 31-Nov. 12 gathering the world's last chance to turn the tide in the battle against climate change.
However, the mood music ahead of the talks appears fairly downbeat, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the summit's host, saying it's ``touch and go'' whether there will be a positive outcome.
On Friday, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned at the Group of 20 summit of leading industrial and developing nation that ``there is a serious risk that Glasgow will not deliver.'' He said despite updated climate targets by many countries, the world is ``still careening towards climate catastrophe.''
The protest began at the Climate Justice Memorial outside the insurance marketplace of Lloyd's of London, as demonstrators called for the global financial system to stop investing in the use of fossil fuels.
They laid red flowers spelling out ``Rise Remember Resist'' at the site before beginning their march to several high-profile institutions in the City of London. They were being escorted by police. Protesters chanted ``Ensure our future, not pollution!'' as they made their way to the financial firm Macquarie Capital. Outside the firm, five women dressed as banshees and held cymbals, wailing and lying on the ground clutching white roses.
The international bank Standard Chartered will be the focus of the main action in the afternoon, followed later by a vigil at the Bank of England. There are also protests planned at British banks Lloyds and Barclays.
The protesters included people who traveled from the front line of climate change in Asia and the Pacific to call out the banks they say are responsible for financing activities they blame for the destruction of their homes by rising seas.
Across the world, demonstrators were taking to the streets to urge action now, including in coal-reliant Poland, where city sirens sounded at noon in Warsaw and other major cities. Poland's conservative government has been slow to embrace new climate goals, arguing that the country needs more time to phase out its heavy dependence on coal and pivot toward more renewable sources.
The summit in Glasgow is taking place a year late because of the coronavirus pandemic. Six years ago in Paris, nearly 200 countries agreed to individual plans to fight global warming. Under the Paris pact, nations must revisit their previous pledges to curb carbon pollution every five years and then announce plans to cut even more and do it faster.
The headline goal set in Paris was to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) since preindustrial times, yet the world has already warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) since then.
The hope is that world leaders will cajole each other into doing more, while ensuring that poorer nations struggling to tackle climate change get the financial support they need to adapt.
Guterres said, however, there are ``serious questions'' about some of those emissions pledges and noted that collectively they won't be enough to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius.