A global movement backed by 16-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg got underway Friday, with students in Europe and Australia skipping school and workers walking off jobs to demand action on climate change.

Tens of thousands of people attended a protest in a central Sydney park, holding up homemade signs with slogans such as “You’re Burning our Future” and “There Is No Planet B.” In Berlin, demonstrators were getting ready for a march through the landmark Brandenburg Gate, just a few steps from where Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is locked in marathon talks to hammer out a multibillion-euro climate protection package.

Thousands are expected to march in Paris, London, Brussels and Warsaw, with similar protests planned in New York, Toronto and elsewhere in North America.

Protesters joining the Global Climate Strike movement want governments to treat global warming as an emergency, slash subsidies for fossil fuels, and switch economies to 100 per cent renewable energy as soon as possible. They’re part of a worldwide series of demonstrations that organizers say will take place in 150 countries on Friday and on Sept. 27.

“As we deal with devastating climate breakdown and hurtle towards dangerous tipping points, young people are calling on millions of us across the planet to disrupt business as usual by joining the global climate strikes,” according to a statement on the organizers’ website.

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People participate in the Global Strike 4 Climate rally in Hong Kong, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. A day of worldwide demonstrations calling for action to guard against climate change began ahead a U.N. summit in New York. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

The movement has taken hold in Europe, where climate has been catapulted to the top of the political agenda. The European Union should walk away from fossil fuels, the bloc’s energy chief told Bloomberg TV this week after a record spike in oil prices. A total of 93 per cent of Europeans see global warming as a serious problem, according to a recent survey by the European Commission.

“Despite our numbers, despite an unprecedented and massive awareness, greenhouse gas emissions are holding steady or even increasing in the world while we witness a mass extinction of biodiversity,” a statement on French activist cite demosphere said, encouraging people to join the protests.

The movement -- inspired by the braided Swedish teenager Thunberg who started weekly school walkouts last year -- has gone global, drawing parallels with other protests like the Civil Rights struggle and anti-apartheid demonstrations.

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Protesters with placards participate in the Global Strike 4 Climate rally in Sydney, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. Thousands of protesters are gathering at rallies around Australia as a day of worldwide demonstrations begins ahead of a U.N. climate summit in New York.(Steven Saphore/AAP Images via AP)

Friday’s protests are timed ahead of United Nations events, including the first Youth Climate Summit on Saturday and the Climate Action Summit of government, corporate and other leaders on Sept. 23 in New York. Thunberg, who founded the “Fridays for Future” protest group, captured media attention by sailing across the Atlantic to address the youth event, rather than traveling by plane -- doing her bit to cap emissions.

The climate campaign has spurred some companies into action. Germany’s Volkswagen AG, the world’s biggest automaker, pledged to make more electric cars and become climate-neutral by 2050. Amazon.com Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos vowed Thursday to wean his company off fossil fuels by 2030. He also announced the formation of a new organization -- the Climate Pledge -- amid a steady drumbeat of criticism from activists and his own employees over Amazon’s dependence on fossil fuels.

On the same day, Alphabet Inc. Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai said Google had agreed to buy 1.6 gigawatts of wind and solar power, a record purchase of renewable energy by a single company.

More than 1,500 Amazon employees are scheduled to take part in Friday’s walkout. Workers from Google and Microsoft Corp. also plan to join protests.

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Environmental activists hold placards during a rally outside the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to coincide with the global protests on climate change Friday, Sept. 20, 2019 at suburban Quezon city, northeast of Manila, Philippines. Various environmental groups in the country are participating in what is expected to be the world's largest mobilization on climate change known as "Global Climate Strikes." (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

In Australia, the campaign has the backing of high-profile business leaders such as the billionaire co-founder of enterprise software company Atlassian Corp., Mike Cannon-Brookes. Atlassian was among hundreds of Australian employers, including law firm Slater & Gordon Ltd. and real-estate portal Domain Holdings Australia Ltd., that allowed workers to take time off to attend the rallies.

The call to action has resonated across Europe, which has suffered from increasing bouts of drought and wildfires, and in Australia -- the world’s driest inhabited continent that derives the bulk of its energy from burning coal.

For all the support the campaign is deriving, however, there are pockets of opposition. In Germany, the far-right AfD party on Friday vowed to oppose any new government measures on climate protection, citing escalating costs. Merkel’s government is “ruining Germany,” the AfD’s Joerg Meuthen said in a statement.