News

Climate Marches: Why Now?

By Kia Wassenaar

Tuesday, October 28

On September 21st over a hundred thousand people gathered in the streets of New York City to march in support of serious climate change. Similar events have popped up across the globe, days before the UN Climate Summit began on September 23rd.

Concerns about global warming have been relevant for years, so why are they just now coming to the forefront?

The United Nations Climate Summit commenced just before nine a.m. on September 23rd with more than 120 world leaders in attendance. The purpose of the summit, as stated by Sam Kahamba Kutesa, the President of the 69th General Assembly, is to “mobilize political will towards finalizing a meaningful, universal climate change agreement in Paris in December 2015, and to generate ambitious action on the ground that will increase resilience, cut greenhouse gas emissions and propel the world towards a cleaner, greener economy.”

This means that an international community is recognizing how detrimental our actions have been to the earth, and is taking huge steps towards a more sustainable way of life, on a global scale.

Protesters assembling in NYC- Photo by ABCnews.go.com

Protesters assembling in NYC- Photo by ABCnews.go.com

 

With more and more solid evidence that shows the irreversibility of climate change, people are beginning to realize that the time to act is now. Signs reading “Change the System, not the Climate” and “Keep oil in the ground” have been present at nearly every major march, aiming these messages at a larger audience.

“We think that the world’s leaders have done a bad job of dealing with climate change, so we figured we ought to come too,” said Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, the group that organized the rallies. “Left to their own devices, we know they would do what they always do, and what they always do is not very much.” (as reported by National Geographic.)

These marches were intended to give public environmental concerns a voice. Hundreds of thousands of people have gathered in London, Paris, Berlin, Madrid, and countless other cities. The purpose of these marches was not to make demands, in fact the marches have no specific demands, but more to come together and raise awareness.

Concerns about climate change are no longer limited a purely environmentalist audience and the climate walks have gained support from more than a thousand different organizations, including labor unions, faith groups, public health entities and more.

With the global community making noise about the UN Climate Summit, little has been said about the actual results.

Here are the major outcomes of the summit:

  • France joined Germany in pledging a billion dollars to the Green Climate Fund, an organization allowing developed nations to transfer money to the developing world, and giving developing nations the ability to institute practices that will mitigate climate change.
  • In addition, a number of smaller developed nations pledged nearly 300 million dollars to the Green Climate Fund.
  • A major declaration on forests was signed by 27 governments and more than 100 companies and organizations. It committed to end global deforestation by 2030 (as reported by The Guardian.)
  • Lastly, although the President of China was absent from the summit, Barack Obama urged China, the leading source of greenhouse emissions, to take responsibility and accelerate actions to reduce carbon emissions.
  • A final step, the 2015 UN Climate Conference, will be held in Paris, France with the objective of establishing a universal, legally binding agreement on climate.

Climate change is an issue that is only just beginning to be addressed by international leaders. However, perhaps the most powerful force for change are the people, who are standing up, united, on behalf of the future.

“The scale, pace, and power of the organizing happening right now is something that we haven’t seen before,” said May Boeve, another leader in organizing the marches.

“People realize that we can’t leave the fate of the planet up to our politicians. We need to come together, raise our voices, and apply pressure where it counts.”

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