People march during a rally against climate change in New York. An international day of action on climate change brought hundreds of thousands of people onto the streets of New York City, easily exceeding organisers' hopes for the largest protest on the issue in history. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Almost 600,000 people hit the streets in various cities across the globe on Sunday demanding urgent action on climate change, reports AFP.

Chanting anti-coal and save-the-forests slogans, the rallies in major cities in South America, Europe, Australia and India added strength to the thousands who marched down New York's Sixth Avenue with UN chief Ban Ki-moon and actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

Proclaimed the largest climate protest worldwide in history, it saw Ricken Patel, executive director of Avaaz, present a petition signed by two million people to Ban Ki-moon in New York.

"The march numbers are beating our wildest expectations," Patel said.

The rallies were designed to build pressure ahead of a climate-change summit to be hosted by the UN chief in New York on Tuesday.

The summit in turn is looking at influencing policy makers in the run-up to the Paris conference in December 2015 where a new global climate change pact will hopefully be finalised.

In Paris, the crowds came on bikes with banners that read, "Climate in danger" or "World leaders, act! In Madrid, the slogans said: "There's no Planet B," "Change your life, not your climate," and "Our climate, your decision."

Placards reading "I want to save forests" and "Coal kills", saw crowds in New Delhi shouting and dancing to drum beats.

The climate summit is an initiative of Ban Ki-moon who has invited world leaders, from government, finance, business, and civil society to galvanise and catalyse climate action.