On Sunday, as the UN Climate Summit prepares to convene, tens of thousands of people worldwide will line their streets and demand ambitious action on the climate crisis from their leaders.
I’ll be standing beside 10,000 others in London for the People’s Climate March, supported by over 100 organisations.
Public appetite for urgent climate action is swelling. Individuals, global organisations and grassroots campaigns are making their voices heard, and hoping our leaders listen. Not just in the UK – everywhere.
Ethics and good economics
The UN Secretary General has asked the Prime Minister and other heads of state not merely to attend this summit, but to bring vision, new announcements and determination to forge new partnerships for transformative change.
We need to make some bold changes if we’re to avert the worst impacts of climate change and protect the world’s resources for future generations. It’s about ethics – it’s also good economics.
In the last 10 years, the world has lost $2 trillion because of climate-related disasters.
This week’s New Climate Economy report underlines the extraordinary benefits of tackling climate change in terms of job creation, economic development, technological and business innovation.
While the winter floods illustrated that rich countries like the UK are also at risk from climate change, the climate issue is inextricably linked to injustice. In Britain and across the earth, those who’ve contributed least to the problem will often suffer the most.
UNICEF supporters are highlighting that 1 in 4 of the world's children live in the 10 countries most vulnerable to climate change.
Analysis shows that we’ve already got five times more reserves of oil, coal and gas than it’s safe to burn.
We have a responsibility. We need to leave the vast majority of existing fossil fuels in the ground.
We should be leading the way to a zero carbon economy. Instead, we’re being locked into continued reliance on polluting energy sources, whether shale gas from Sussex or oil from the Arctic.
Reliable, renewable alternatives
There are viable, economically sound and reliable alternatives.
The Government’s obsession with fracking doesn’t merely endanger the UK’s own carbon targets, defy economic common sense and public opinion - it undermines efforts to secure a fair and equitable global climate deal too.
As John Ashton, the UK’s former Special Representative for Climate Change has explained, diplomacy starts with what you do, not with what you ask of others.
What message will the Prime Minister send if he goes to New York telling other countries that they need to burn less oil and gas and coal whilst, back in the UK, Ministers are going all out for fracking and handing out tax breaks to help oil and gas giants extract every last drop of the fuels from under us?
It’s good that the Prime Minister has agreed to go to the climate summit but it’s not enough.
If the UK is to retain (or regain) credibility on climate change, we need a new vision and bold new commitments to drive the transition away from fossil fuels, ramp up renewable energy and energy saving, and help poorer countries cope with the impacts.
We should judge the Government’s contribution to securing a fair binding, transparent international global deal on climate change by actions, not just words.
Every person can make a difference
Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary General, wrote earlier this month:
“Climate change is not just an issue for the future, it is an urgent issue for today. Instead of asking if we can afford to act, we should be asking what is stopping us, who is stopping us, and why? Let us join forces to push back against skeptics and entrenched interests. Let us support the scientists, economists, entrepreneurs and investors who can persuade government leaders and policy-makers that now is the time for action.”
When I march on Sunday with all those people in London, all those global and grassroots teams, I’ll have this quote from Alice Walker, the American author and activist, in mind:
“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any.”
Hope to see you there!
I’m marching because it does make a difference. And I hope you’ll join us. Stand up for climate action and bring what you love and want to protect most: your friends, your neighbours, your local librarian, your children, your grandparents, your dog…Everyone's invited.