Thousands of Albertans streamed into downtown Edmonton on Friday afternoon as Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg drew a massive crowd for a climate rally and pro-pipeline supporters also gathered to show their disapproval.
“We are not doing this because we want to,” Thunberg said to the massive crowd. “We aren’t doing it because it’s fun. We aren’t doing it because we have a special interest in the climate or because we want to become politicians when we grow up.
Thunberg told the crowd “you are the hope” and referenced numbers from the 2018 IPCC report, the same numbers she referenced in her speech to the United Nations.
“If we are to have a 67 per cent chance of limiting the global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees we had, on Jan. 1, 2018, 420 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide left in our CO2 budget. And now that number is down to less than 360 gigatonnes, as we emit equal to 42 gigatonnes of CO2 every year,” Thunberg said.
“We are doing this because in this crisis we will not be bystanders. And we are doing it because we want the people in power to unite behind the science.”
Thunberg was also spotted marching with protesters downtown earlier in the day during the Climate Justice Edmonton march to the Alberta legislature.
The large group of climate change protesters could be heard chanting, “What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now!” as they marched down Jasper Avenue and 108 Street to the legislature.
A group of oil-and-gas supporters and a pro-pipeline truck convoy from Red Deer were also on hand at the legislature, organized by the United We Roll group.
Numerous United We Roll trucks pulled in at the legislature just before noon, honking their horns and beating the thousands of marchers on foot by just moments.
Edmonton police say they estimate a total of about 4,000 people were at the legislature for the event—and that there were no arrests.
“Both of the groups worked very well with the Edmonton Police Service to make sure this was an orderly event,” Insp. Jonathan Coughlan said.
United We Roll also held a pro-pipeline convoy to Parliament Hill in February — says its members are frustrated with celebrities visiting the province and telling Albertans how to run their business.
The convoy started at Gorts Truck Wash in Red Deer at 7 a.m. before making its way up the QEII. Blackjacks Games Room in Nisku was also scheduled to serve as a staging area for the convoy before it travelled to the Alberta legislature in time for the noon climate rally.
“We have the oil industry with the highest environment standards in the world, highest safety standards, labour code, all of that,” convoy co-organizer Joel Mullan said.
“We have an industry we can be immensely proud of, and that’s what we’re going to do today is show that pride and our support for it.”
Organizers said the counter-rally is meant to be peaceful.
Edmonton police said that they were prepared for Friday’s event, and while specialized resources were assigned to “maintain peace and ensure the safety of citizens,” protests like these are planned for each year.
“We do have budget and manpower for that purpose, and specific training.”
Thunberg has been making headlines for criticizing world leaders, whom she accuses of letting down youth by doing too little to tackle climate change.
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson extended an invitation to Thunberg to visit city hall. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said he hopes Thunberg is warmly welcomed, but there are no plans for the UCP to meet with her.
— With files from The Canadian Press and Global’s Slav Kornik