Coronavirus Cancels Earth Day Gatherings but Not Agenda

ROME, ITALY - 2015/11/29: Thousands of citizens and environmental activists take part in the 'Global Climate March' to call for tougher action to tackle climate change in Rome. The awareness event took place ahead of the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention …
Giuseppe Ciccia/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic has put a damper on large gatherings on Earth Day next week, but it has not stopped activists from using the occasion to advance their agenda, including ending the threat of climate change and ending the use of fossil fuels.

“The current pandemic of coronavirus has harmed lives, livelihoods and economies,” Ingmar Rentzhog, founder of Stockholm-based We Don’t Have Time, said in an announcement of a virtual week-long conference to mark the 50th anniversary of a day set aside in honor of the planet.

“It has also triggered the postponement of the crucial UK-hosted, UN climate conference, where climate action was meant to rise to the next level towards meeting the landmark Paris Agreement,” Rentzhog said.

“The world must clearly lift the threat of the current pandemic, but we cannot lose sight of the even bigger crisis facing our planet and its people,” Rentzhog said.

“When the global economy restarts, it must do so with a clear and urgent direction towards a low carbon future,” Rentzhog said. “Our conference aims … [to] inspire everyone to get the climate job done at speed and at scale.”

Billed as the “world’s largest online climate conference,” the event will feature dozens of speakers from climate change activist groups, among them a number with ties to the United Nations, including Nick Robins, former co-director of the U.N. Environment’s Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System; Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change; and Ibrahim Thiaw, executive secretary of the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification.

A number of youth representatives are also taking part, but notably missing is Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg, although she is shown briefly in a video promoting the event. The video also has a cameo of President Donald Trump spliced in before a scene of industrial smokestacks.

“The coronavirus has dramatically changed the way all of us will be marking Earth Day 2020,” Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day Network, said in the announcement. “Together, and with hundreds of millions of people around the globe we are making it clear to leaders that people everywhere are behind ambitious action and the answers to the climate crisis are here and ready to be deployed.”

“The Earth Day Week ‘No Fly Conference,’ in which delegates will meet over the internet via the We Don’t Haven Time studios in Stockholm and Washington DC, will run from Monday the 20th of April to Friday 24 April with a Climate Hackathon on Saturday 25th April,” the announcement said.

People who sign up on the event website can watch the conference, organizers said.

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