The people want solar: thousands turn out for the London Climate March

22 Sep 2014   lucyejwoods

Fanfares, drums, whistles and giant shadows of a puppet savannah of animals, and – meters in diameter – black rolling bubbles of metaphoric black carbon lined the streets of London yesterday.

The swarm of witty placards and provocative thoughts taped, sewed and felt tipped to banners decorated a determined crowd of an estimated 40,000 climate protestors as the globe witnessed the largest climate march in history.

Across more than 150 countries people took to the streets to demand action on climate change, renewable energy and an end to polluting fossil fuels. The marches are timed to coincide with the UN Climate Summit in New York on Tuesday, and for UN Climate talks in Lima this December, and in Paris in 2015.

“This is a manifestation building up to Paris 2015, it is a big deal” John Sauven, executive director for Greenpeace UK told Solar Power Portal in between paces not far from a polar bear.

“It sends an important message for the Climate Summit, public presence is critical, we are clear on the evidence and seriousness – politicians must do more” says Sauven.

“This is the beginning of a series of events” said Andrew Pendleton, head of campaigns for Friends of the Earth, accompanied by his colleagues and small son. “People are not sceptical anymore, they want something done.”

Political activist, lecturer and author of ‘Stop Global Warming – Change the World’, Jonathan Neale, told Solar Power Portal while giving away copies of the ‘One Million Climate Jobs’ report he was a lead author of, that “marches help mobilise people and this march is wonderful.”

– Briefly interrupted as a masked marcher precariously climbed the side of a building, to adamant cheering from the hundreds of onlookers.

“People on the street are direct action, with Friends of the Earth to Unions. We need climate jobs and we have to leave oil in the soil, we also need to change transport and houses: it is a big campaign,” Neale says.

“Nepal and Tibet have healthy solar powered tents! It is not hard!” Neale added.

Behind a giant inflatable black ball, possibly recycled from bin liners, Gabriel Davalos, a Fossil Free movement coordinator for the London School of Economics, said mass climate marches “start with a small group, like LSE, then grows to larger groups like in New York, growing and getting bigger all the time, I feel positive”.

“There will be more action to make leaders know we are here and people can meet and begin the process – this is just the start.”

Pushchairs, bicycles, cane holding strollers to children on shoulders all seem adamant: this march is just the beginning of the tip of the climate-change-melting iceberg.

Some walking solar panels also used the climate march to head to the Department of Energy and Climate Change with cardboard signs stating “don’t get peeved get PV” and “The mend is nigh”.

In light green t-shirts armoured with a huge Oxfam banner, campaign network coordinator for Oxfam, Kelly Mundy says people at the march and beyond “care; climate change is on people’s agenda.” In reference to the similar activities across the world, Mundy said “climate change is already happening and making people hungry.”

Leo Hickman, chief advisor on climate change at WWF said the environmental charity used social media and its branches across the country to mobilise and inform the diverse crowd onto the streets of London. Hickman says the day is to “re-mobilise the public and let world leaders know we expect a lot.”

“Climate change is a threat multiplier; it can become a mega issue,” Hickman added.

“Today is just what is needed, a catalyst, today feels like a spur: we care, climate change is here,” said Hickman.

Both Mundy and Hickman also expressed hope for a November event in Stockholm, where there will be a pledging conference for donations for the Green Climate Fund: “Developed nations have promised lots but no cheque books are out,” says Hickman.

Passionate speakers boarded the double decker bus to face a crowd of placard holders, costume wearers, saxophone players to photographers and TV cameras that had walked from Temple, to offer words of encouragement.

Among the speakers, actor and recent Greenpeace envoy to the Arctic, Emma Thompson told Solar Power Portal, “Solar power is great because it can be used anywhere near to a connection – but solar panels can also be used to get off the grid.”

The knowledgeable actor added “however, solar is slightly less active here [in the UK] than it should be, we need to inform ourselves.”

Upon the bus, microphone in hand to address the crowd of thousands of climate marchers, Thompson told the energetic crowd: “We are no longer the grungy hippies at the sidelines” but that “if the future is not green, there is no future.”


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