UPDATE 1-On Earth Day, climate activists rally against fossil fuels

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* Activists demand EU sanctions on Russian oil and gas

* Some European states oppose the ban for fear of an economic blow

* Demonstrations in Berlin, Warsaw, Brussels, elsewhere in Europe (Updates with actions from New York, Bangkok, Stockholm)

By Kate Abnet

BRUSSELS, April 22 (Reuters) – Climate change activists launched a wave of Earth Day protests on Friday, pushing demands such as an immediate halt to European oil and gas imports from Russia and an end to the construction of fossil fuel infrastructure.

In Europe, activists in Berlin, Warsaw, Brussels and elsewhere have held rallies outside German government or embassy buildings, where they will hand out rubles stained red to symbolize the blood covering a currency they say fuels both climate change and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. .

Germany is one of the European Union countries opposed to an embargo on Russian oil and gas for fear of damage to their economies.

A dozen activists from the city of Lviv in western Ukraine have also planned a protest. Parts of Lviv were hit this week by Russian missile strikes that killed seven people.

“When Germany continues to buy gas and oil from Russia, it means that it pays its money to build new military machines, new bombs, which kill Ukrainians,” said Natalia Gozak, head of the civil society group EcoAction, from Lviv.

Gozak said European politicians had to choose between the economic “inconveniences” of an embargo and the death of Ukrainians.

In the United States, activists from the group Extinction Rebellion blocked a newspaper printing press in New York, where they called for greater media coverage of climate change.

Young protesters have also gathered in places like Bangkok and Stockholm, where Swedish activist Greta Thunberg has joined the school strike – a weekly protest she started as a lone student in 2018 to call for urgent action to combat climate change.

The protests aim to amplify demands for climate action on Earth Day, when people around the world celebrate and come together to protect the environment. They come three weeks after a report by a UN climate scientist warned https://www.Reuters.com/business/environment/now-or-never-only-severe-emissions-cuts-will -avoid-climate-extreme-un-report -2022-04-04 there is little time left to bring greenhouse gas emissions under control sufficiently to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

Earlier this week, Ipsos MORI published a survey in which two-thirds of some 20,000 people polled in 31 countries on February 18 and March 4 said they were worried about a climate-altered future.

EUROPE UNDER PRESSURE

Since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the EU has spent more than 38 billion euros ($41.2 billion) on Russian fossil fuel imports.

The 27 EU countries have agreed to ban imports of Russian coal from August, in sweeping sanctions also targeting Russian banks and business tycoons.

Countries like Italy and Germany have said they can wean themselves off Russian gas within a few years, and some European companies are already voluntarily avoiding Russian oil to avoid reputational damage or possible legal problems. .

But EU states are divided on whether to impose an immediate and comprehensive embargo on Russian fuels, which Germany and Hungary say would hammer their economies. The EU gets 40% of its gas from Russia.

The European Commission is assessing the costs of replacing Russian oil with imports from elsewhere, in a bid to persuade reluctant European countries to agree to an embargo, a European source told Reuters this week.

Warsaw-based climate activist Dominika Lasota, 20, said the youth movement Fridays for Future would change its approach by organizing smaller actions targeting specific governments opposed to fossil fuel sanctions, rather than organizing the massive street protests that have attracted hundreds of thousands of people in recent years and helped bring international attention to climate change.

The group wants to highlight the role fossil fuels play in funding the conflict in Ukraine, she said.

“It’s war. We have to prepare for a longer marathon,” Lasota said. “The war will not end with the last bomb that falls…it will end once we end the [fossil fuel] industry and the system that underpins it.”

Ukrainian NGOs also planned to send a letter Friday to the German parliament asking the country to stop buying Russian oil and gas.

“Germany is one of its main consumers and is therefore the main sponsor of the war in Ukraine,” said the letter, seen by Reuters. “You only need a little political will and humanity to impose a total embargo on Russian oil and gas.” ($1 = 0.9221 euros) (Reporting by Kate Abnett; Additional reporting by Gloria Dickie and Simon Jessop in London; Editing by Katy Daigle, Mark Heinrich and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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