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Environment

Activists aim for global record with climate protests

The environmental group 350.org has set an ambitious goal for cutting carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. But the group's European coordinator told Deutsche Welle the organization isn't overreaching.

350.org protesters in South Africa in 2009

Protests last year were held in South Africa and 180 other countries

As 350.org stages events in 188 countries around the world on Sunday, the group's European coordinator, Diana Vogtel, told Deutsche Welle about the international protest event.

Deutsche Welle: What is the scale of 350.org's plans for this year's event?

Diana Vogtel: As of a couple of days ago, we have already confirmed that the action on the October 10 will be bigger than last year's event. So far, over 7,000 campaigns and actions have been organized by local groups in 188 countries around the world.

Our lead event here in Europe will be the big energy switching action in Berlin.

What do you mean by an energy switching action?

Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

Berlin's Brandenburg Gate will host Sunday's climate switching event

It's a symbolic event taking place at a site with a huge self-made renewable energy park on one side and a nuclear and coal-energy park on the other side. We are inviting Berlin citizens to come and symbolically switch from coal and nuclear energy to renewable energy sources.

There will also be stalls and possibilities for citizens at the Brandenburg Gate to pull the actual switch on Sunday. We will also host a Silent Climate Parade with around 350 ravers passing through different sites that already use renewable energy. They'll be listening to music on headphones to symbolize our politicians' silence on the problem of climate change after Copenhagen.

What's the significance of 350 in your organization's name?

The number refers to 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Leading climate scientists tell us that 350 is the safe limit that we have to go back to in order to avoid the most catastrophic climate change events happening. At the moment, we are already beyond 390 parts per million.

Other than the scientific background, we chose 350 since it's a number that everyone can understand. Our goal is bringing together the global movement on climate change, so the name should be clear.

Given that carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere so long, how can we get back to this number?

This is exactly the reason why we're hosting this big action on October 10th. There are already thousands of climate solutions out there - we just need to put them into place. But the window of opportunity to do so is closing. That's why we need to put the solutions in place right now to be able to actually still go back to 350 parts per million.

We asked a lot of scientists to do research on this issue, and we found there is still a chance to act, but we need to act now. This is why thousands of people will be going out on the streets and showing their politicians which climate change solutions they've already put into place. It's a call to politicians to enact them on a national and global scale.

Your goal is significantly more ambitious than even the goal that many countries at the moment are struggling to agree on. Are you overreaching?

Protesters at the 2009 climate change conference in Copenhagen

Protests marked 2009's climate change conference and the 2 degree target

350 parts per million is a scientific goal, and the 2 degree goal [a goal to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels] is a political goal. The difference is that the 2 degree goal is what politicians regard as politically possible.

But what we always say is: You can't negotiate with our natural system, so we need to go to a scientific goal. It's not about overreaching. We need to listen to scientists and what they tell us instead of deciding what's economically or politically possible.

Politicians have been wrangling for years about the same issues on emissions targets and money. Do you really think they are going to stop pursuing their respective national interests and start listening to organizations like yours anytime soon?

We have been advocating for the 350 target now for quite a while, and actually over 100 delegations who were at the Copenhagen talks said they support the 350 goal. Obviously, these are the states most concerned about climate change because it is already happening there.

We are convinced that we need to show our politicians that it's not just about national interests. It's about global interests. We need to show them that the citizens are actually ready to go down this path and support sustainable solutions.

Interview: Nathan Witkop

Editor: Sean Sinico

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