The UN held a Climate Summit on September 23. Where the Kyoto Protocol and subsequent negotiations have thus far failed, the summit aimed to succeed in a different manner. The Kyoto Protocol set legally binding agreements on developed countries to cap and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
Canada withdrew in 2011, by the way.
Not only that, but many of our developed contemporaries like the USA, did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol in the first place. Japan and Russia haven’t set second round goals, and they joined us in what is increasingly looking like an international boycott.
In light of this seemingly terrible news, the 2014 Climate Summit, also being called the Ban Ki-moon Summit after the UN Secretary-General, aimed not to lay down laws, but instead act as a catalyst for action around the world.
“This summit will be about action and solutions that are focused on accelerating progress in areas that can significantly contribute to reducing emissions,” the UN said in their own words.
That’s all well and good, but there are a few problems from the past that are likely to manifest at this summit as well.
The most significant problem with this revolutionary idea for a climate summit is, in the words of Bill McKibben in The New Yorker, that “these guys are going to come and do the same thing they always do – offer a few fine speeches and head home having accomplished nothing.”
McKibben has been at the forefront of climate activism since realizing what the world needs to combat climate change isn’t more scientists and policy-makers, but instead, a movement. It is McKibben’s cry to arms, and those of his many followers around the world, that helps us arrive at what is now being called The People’s Climate March.
The march happened all over the world – in 166 countries, to be exact.
September 21 was the day that brought people from different continents, different religious affiliations, different cultures, every age group, and every profession, under one common goal. The goal was to demand that global leaders take action against climate change.
The entire city of Toronto was abuzz with excitement. At least that’s what it looked like standing in the middle of a sea of marchers. The estimates varied, but all sources guaranteed there were at least 3,000 people gathered at 1 p.m. in Nathan Phillips Square to march against climate change. The thousands at the event, myself included, made the purpose clear: we are frustrated, embarrassed, and frankly, fed up with Canadian federal and provincial environmental performance.
Change needs to happen. The march began with speeches from various members of Toronto-based and global environmental leaders. Keith Stewart of Greenpeace set the tone.
“The only thing that’s going to turn this around is an unstoppable alliance of people like the people in this square.”
His sentiment was met with applause and a resounding chorus of agreement – the march had begun.
Bolstered by chants of “hey ho, hey ho, dirty oil needs to go!” 3,000 people began their journey from the square moving north on University, then east to Dundas Square. Here, hoards of tourists and locals alike took in the spectacle, and then moved back down to Queen Street to finish in front of City Hall once more.
Mark Reece, a graduate student explains that for him, it’s about the numbers.
“Marching is a good way to get people united. The bigger the crowd, the more coverage the issue will get. It’s not easy, but this is how change happens,” he says.
The news from New York quickly spread around the globe – according to 350.org the final count was 400,000 marchers in Manhattan.
Romanda Simpson, a York graduate student, traveled to New York to attend the march and said being present was “incredibly powerful.”
“I saw solidarity in this crisis we are in, and so I have hope,” she explains. “I think this demonstrates to people all over the world that we are here, in this right now, but together. We can find solutions and take steps forward.”
What was perhaps most encouraging was the acknowledgement of the global involvement of citizens by both President Obama and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
“The alarm bells keep ringing. Our citizens keep marching. We cannot pretend we do not hear them, we have to answer the call,” President Obama said.
Meanwhile, Ban Ki-moon spoke about his experience in joining the New York City march, and was very clear about his intentions in holding the summit.
“We are not here to talk,” Ban Ki-moon said. “We are here to make history.”
New stories and pictures of global marches have been cropping up constantly online and the attention of world leaders has been drawn. Just try looking up #PeoplesClimate on Twitter and you’ll get overwhelming results.
Hopefully we can let the world know this movement has just begun. The final words, and perhaps the most important at the Toronto march, were spoken by Keith Brooks of Environmental Defence Canada.
“As important as it is to take to the streets, it doesn’t end today,” he said. “It doesn’t end when you get home.”
“There’s lots that still needs to be done.”
We must wait patiently for the true results of the summit, but that doesn’t mean, in any way, that the fight is over.
It’s just begun.