Thousands of people marched on Sunday in Brussels urging the Belgian government to respect its commitments on countering climate change as a United Nations conference on keeping global warming in check begins in Poland.
Belgian police said some 65,000 people participated in Sunday's "Claim The Climate" demonstration, calling for "ambitious" climate policies to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius in line with goals set by the Paris Agreement in 2015.
Demonstrators marched through the quarter of the Belgian capital that houses the headquarters of the European Union, with banners bearing slogans including "There is no planet B" and "Climate First, Politics Second."
The peaceful Sunday march contrasted with the much smaller "yellow vest" protests in Paris that degenerated into violence on Saturday. While the yellow vests in France called for lower fuel prices, demonstrators in Belgium wanted a reduction of gas emissions.
The Brussels demonstration coincided with the beginning of a two-week U.N. summit on climate change in the Polish city of Katowice. Even solid progress on the Paris goals may not be enough to prevent runaway global warming, as a series of major climate reports have outlined.
In a rare intervention, presidents of previous UN climate summits issued a joint statement on Sunday as the talks got underway, calling on states to take "decisive action... to tackle these urgent threats."
"The impacts of climate change are increasingly hard to ignore," said the statement, a copy of which was obtained by AFP. "We require deep transformations of our economies and societies."
"Climate change impacts have never been worse," Patricia Espinosa told journalists after Sunday's first negotiating session. "This reality is telling us that we need to do much more."