Swiss father ready to die in climate hunger strike

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By Denis Balibouse

BERN (Reuters) - A Swiss father of three on his eighth day of a hunger strike said on Monday he is willing to starve to death in a bid to make his government take bold action on climate change to safeguard his children's future.

Guillermo Fernandez, a 47-year-old former IT programmer, quit his job to go on strike from Nov. 1 -- the day after the start of the Glasgow COP26 climate summit https://www.reuters.com/business/cop.

He is demanding that Environment Minister Simonetta Sommaruga, who attended the conference, informs parliament of the "urgent and bleak" situation due to climate change and takes bold measures to address it.

"We are a small country, we are rich and we can invent the solution for the future. We just have to start now," Fernandez told Reuters in the capital of Bern's main square outside parliament.

"I do know that what I am demanding is tough and might require that I do die."

Temperatures in Switzerland are rising at around twice the global rate, melting glaciers and thawing permafrost, and many climate activists are disappointed with official measures. Climate Action Tracker, a tool developed by a scientific research group https://climateactiontracker.org/countries/switzerland, rated Switzerland as "insufficient".

A spokesperson for the environment ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Fernandez, from the town of Gruyeres in the canton of Fribourg, says he decided on his daughter's 13th birthday in August -- which coincided with the release of a major U.N. climate report warning of climate disruptions for decades https://www.reuters.com/article/us-climate-change-ipcc-report-idCAKBN2FA0JL -- to start the strike.

Fernandez said his children were proud of his actions.

"They understand that saving their future now requires a struggle. And in struggles for justice, you might die and they know it," he said, close to tears.

(Reporting by Denis Balibouse; Writing and additional reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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