Extinction Rebellion stunt turns Venice’s water green in COP28 protest

Activists turned the water of Venice’s main canal fluorescent green to denounce the “failure” by governments to tackle the climate emergency.

Members of Extinction Rebellion (XR) poured fluorescein, a fluorescent tracer used by plumbers and divers, into the main canal in the Italian lagoon known as Canal Grande on Saturday.  

Astonishing pictures show the iconic gondolas crossing the green waters as climate activists lowered a pink banner from the Rialto Bridge.

Their message read: “COP28: While the Government speaks we are hanging on by a thread”.

Similar protests also took place in other main Italian cities. Areas in the Navigli in Milan, the Tevere in Rome and Po in Turin were temporarily turned green by the substance used by the activists.

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The protest came just days before COP28, the United Nations summit on climate change, will come to a close.

Speaking about the conference held in Dubai, Italian XR activists said in a statement: “Within hours, these waters will return as they were. But the colour of our seas and rivers will keep changing as temperatures continue to increase.”

The statement also hit out at the decision to hold the climate summit in the UAE, a nation “the economy of which is held up by oil”, the activists claimed. 

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Claiming all the COP summits have been failures as they never led to binding deals committing to cutting emissions, the activists added: “Climate change is already having a disastrous impact on the Italian territory and science says it is only going to get worse. In front of this catastrophe, politics continues to waste time in a farce.”

COP28 was launched on November 30 and saw the attendance of several world leaders – including King Charles III.

As the summit is to end on December 12, activists and scientists have turned up the heat on decision-makers to make commitments on fossil fuels and cutting emissions. 

Alok Sharma, who was president of the COP26 summit in Glasgow, said in an interview with the Observer governments needed to make a clear commitment to eliminate coal, oil and gas if they wanted to avoid climate breakdown. 

This weekend, it emerged a push to “phase out” fossil fuels has gathered traction like never before in the nearly 30-year history of these UN talks – reportedly sparking concerns among oil and gas producing nations and oil organisation OPEC.

A leaked letter from the OPEC head urged its member states to reject language targeting fossil fuels.

Alden Meyer, of thinktank E3G, said this letter “indicates a whiff of panic”.

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