Dec. 6 (GIN) – As the U.N. climate change conference in Durban draws to a close, thousands of Africans, international activists, and various environmental groups held marches for justice, organized workshops and held side conferences in nearby areas.

On Saturday, dubbed the “Global Day of Action, demonstrators urged politicians worldwide to take serious action against climate change.

“We are asking for 100 percent change. Today will be the beginning of a strong movement that is going to challenge the rich nations of the world,” said local leader Desmond D’Sa.

“This is not a dress rehearsal,” added Kumi Naidoo, director of Greenpeace International. “Those who are not interested in saving lives, economies and environments, like the U.S., must now stand aside and let those with the political will move forward.”

Meanwhile, climate negotiators from more than 190 nations were meeting at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Center to advance progress on earlier climate accords such as the Kyoto Protocol, the Bali Action Plan, and the Cancun Agreements.

Amidst all the activity, environmentalist Nnimmo Bassey, executive director of Environmental Rights Action in Nigeria, assessed the possible outcomes of the world conference in an interview with Amy Goodman of the news show Democracy Now.

“We came to Durban hoping that the rich, industrialized, polluting nations will for once step up and take responsibility by making a commitment to cut emissions at the source, not by continuing pollution and then believing that carbon stocks elsewhere in the world will offset their polluting activities,” said Bassey.

He sounded a note of scepticism. “From what we’ve seen over the past week, there is no chance that we’re going to have any kind of agreement that will show any level of seriousness, that will indicate that politicians understand that this is a planetary crisis and not just an opportunity to do business or to pat each other on the back.”

On the U.S. proposal to begin regulating toxic emissions in 2020, Bassey responded grimly: “Eight years from now is a death sentence on Africa… For every one-degree Celsius change in temperature, Africa is impacted at a heightened level. So this is very much to be condemned.”

Zaid Shopeju, executive director for Youth Vision Alliance Network, a youth-led organization based in Lagos that empowers youths with leadership skills, added: “For over 20 or 30 years, the government has been protecting the polluters to the detriment of the people … These are people that are messing up the livelihood, the life of people living in this place. And our government is not standing up for us. So it’s high time that we, as youths and concerned citizens, need to rise up to this occasion.”

“We have to step up, and we are doing that already.”