LIMA — Thousands of people marched in central Lima against the abuse of Earth's resources Wednesday, urging ministers haggling over a world climate deal to ensure a global switch to 100-per cent clean energy by 2050.
Students, environmentalists, workers, women's defenders, anti-poverty activists and indigenous groups joined the "People's Climate March" in the Peruvian capital, chanting "Water yes, gold no!" and "The water is ours!"
The colorful line of festive demonstrators snaked its way through the city, accompanied by rhythmic drumming and brass bands.
Police estimated the crowd at some 1,800 people, but organisers said some 15,000 turned out.
A carnival-like atmosphere characterized the 2km walk in the hot sun, with large puppets and stilt-walkers towering over the crowds, many in traditional Peruvian dress.
They waved placards demanding "100-per cent clean energy," and banners declaring "Life is worth more than gold," as a large police contingent looked on. Ronald Guillen, from the Admicco organization defending the interests of Peruvian coastal communities, said this was an issue of survival.
"A change in weather can be bad for all the things that we build on the coast," he said.
"It could be dangerous for the people."
Hip hop artist Brian Palacios, 20, said he was at the rally "because we have to stop the pollution."
"There have been so many conferences before this one, and global warming is still a problem," he said of the talks in Lima, where negotiators remain divided on key issues.
Eleanore Paco, 59, a potato farmer from a village in southeast Peru said she traveled for 24 hours by bus to take part in the rally because rural people "have been abandoned" and were losing their livelihoods both through land grabs and a changing climate.
"If there is no rain, there is no water" for the crops, she said.
Carlos Ruiz, a 58-year-old electronic engineer from Lima, said he was "worried about the future of my children, and their children," citing pollution and rising temperatures.
"When the problems are grave, we need big decisions," he said. "We need a change of spirit, of values for everyone, from governments and business. We are oriented towards money and power, we should be thinking of human beings." Wednesday's rally follows the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of people in dozens of cities on the eve of the September 23 world leaders' summit in New York that revived climate change as a political priority.
Environment ministers, meanwhile, engaged in the second of a four-day meeting designed to apply political heft to deeply divided negotiations.
The December 1-12 Lima talks aim to clear the way for a pact to be signed in Paris in December 2015 to slash soaring Earth-warming greenhouse gas emissions. The plan would go into effect in 2020.
The pact attempts to meet the UN goal of limiting average global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels.
Scientists say two degrees Celsius is far safer than predicted trends – which place the world on track for a four-degree increase this century, resulting in worse droughts, floods, storms and rising seas.
But negotiators remained stuck on how to share out the burden for curbing emissions between rich and poor nations.
India led a chorus of developing countries to defend a division of responsibilities set down 22 years ago when the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was established.
It split the world into developing and advanced economies, based on the situation in 1992.
Europe, the United States and other advanced economies say this approach is senseless today, with developing countries having overtaken the West as carbon polluters with their heavy reliance on coal to power rapid growth.
"Many countries, including us, are unwilling to base differentiation on a permanent division of countries into the two categories established in 1992 – a division we think makes no sense in a world with rapidly changing material conditions," US climate envoy Todd Stern said. — AFP