40,000 people marched on Parliament Square on Sunday 21 September as part of the biggest ever call for action on climate change – and we were there amongst them.
It was fab to meet CAFOD supporters at the interfaith meeting in the morning and stand in prayer with all the other groups there. Very powerful moment I thought. It was rather awesome to think we were just one group of 2,000 (in 161 countries) that were campaigning all over the world that weekend in advance of the UN Climate Change summit.
Here’s a first hand account of the whole day by our new volunteer Campaigns Coordinator (Mel Vasileva):
“Bags. Banners. Bustling. Noise. Chanting. People. A lot of people; all shapes, all sizes, all ages! And hunger. Hunger for social change. That is the only thing this 40,000 group of people that gathered together this Sunday in London Temple Place had in common. Everyone that came did so from various places across the country, for one reason and one goal; to tell our politicians that climate change is a problem (in case they didn’t already know).
As a 20-something year university graduate, caring about climate change and what happens to trees is perhaps not the coolest of things. I can probably list at least 10 things that are more hip than climate change (i.e. the new iPhone 6). And although I have my share of good friends and loved ones, it’s fair to say that what got me circle of friends wasn’t my chattering about the importance of recycling.
At university I quickly earned the honorary badge of ‘the foreign girl who talks about the environment’ (I was born in Bulgaria). At work, colleagues would often roll their eyes and mutter ‘here we go again…’ whenever they saw me pointing enthusiastically to a plastic water bottle that had somehow ‘fallen’ into the general waste bin. At home, I’d get the same reaction from my boyfriend whenever I start reciting the latest statistics about rising global temperatures, and the effect this has on farming.
Climate change is still seen as a somewhat controversial topic. Sometimes it’s hard to get even your most loved and dearest ones to spare you 5 minutes whilst you explain to them why it’s so important not to waste fresh drinking water. For people like me (pro-environmentalists) it’s not all too uncommon to feel like a misunderstood outsider even at the best of times.
The highlight of the day for me on Sunday was the feeling of inclusiveness. For one of the first times in my life I didn’t feel like a minority. I didn’t feel like people were judging me or laughing at me for taking short showers. I didn’t feel like a ‘hippie’.
At the risk of sounding like a ‘softie’, when I stepped off Waterloo Station at 12.34pm, I felt a ball form in my throat. I felt an overwhelming joy and love for all the people before me who I knew were here for the same reason I was. Scientists say you fall in love within 2 seconds. This Sunday I fell in love a thousand times over. I fell in love with everyone who reminded me that I’m not alone, that I’m not the only one recycling my aluminium cans with the weather in mind. I fell in love with the people who gather for the same reason in Bristol, Manchester, London, New York and all over the world.
Thank you to those millions of people who have encouraged me to keep fighting the fight. For the love of my loved ones (even though they may not realise). One world, one climate.”
So what’s happened?
At the talks themselves world leaders spoke of the climate change threat in stronger terms than ever before. President Obama acknowledged “we are the first generation to feel the effect of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it” while China’s Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli accepted the need to make his country’s economy much more carbon efficient by 2020.
Speaking at the summit the Prime Minister David Cameron spotlighted the need to support the poorest communities who are worst-hit by climate change, saying it was a threat not just to the environment but also to poverty eradication and to economic prosperity. “We must provide support to those who need it, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable,” he said. “It is completely unrealistic to expect developing countries to forgo the high-carbon route to growth that so many western countries enjoyed unless we support them to achieve green growth.”
Pope Francis’ Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin addressed the summit, saying climate change had become a moral imperative and “a question of justice, respect and equity, a question which must awaken our consciences”. He added there were “no political frontiers, barriers or walls behind which we can hide to protect one member from another against the effects of global warming”.
CAFOD’s Head of Advocacy and Communications, Neil Thorns, said
“World Leaders still lack the urgency that 500,000 people marching around the world are calling for, but there is no question that the summit was a big step forward.
The Prime Minister in New York and Ed Miliband in Manchester sent clear signals that the millions of people who are deeply concerned about the impacts of climate change are being heard. However, what we now need to see are concrete proposals from all parties about how they will develop low-carbon economies and support the development of the poorest sections of society.
After years of malaise and pessimism, it’s all to play for again. If we continue to act together, we can push for action in the UK and globally in the run up to the Paris talks next year, where a fair and binding global agreement is the goal.”
There is hope folks! Join the growing climate change movement and take action with our One Climate, One World campaign today by clicking here.
Photos by Liam Finn/CAFOD and Mel Vasileva