People's Climate Activities were Historic... UN Climate Summit, Not So Much.

You probably heard this many times last week, but it’s worth saying again—the People’s Climate March on Sunday September 21, 2014 was a major historic event. It was historic because of the sheer numbers who came out to march (it’s being called the largest climate march in history, with estimates around 400,000 people in the streets of New York City). It was historic because the participants and leaders of the march reflected the voices and bodies of the people on the frontlines of the crisis , who are most impacted by climate change and the economic crisis. It was historic because of the way that the grassroots organizing sector and climate policy organizations came together to collaborate in the planning of the march, and laid the groundwork for strengthened relationships and a broader united movement for climate justice.

In the days following the march, people took action to continue pressuring the United Nations and global leaders to take real community-led action on Climate Change.

Unfortunately, the UN response was far from historic. You may have also seen the UN Climate Summit’s branding last week: “I’m for Climate Action.” At first glance, that may seem like a good thing. We want action on climate, right? However, what the UN calls “Climate Action” is not the kind of action that communities around the globe need, so much so that members of the Climate Justice Alliance called the UN Climate Summit "little more than a pep rally pushing carbon trading offsets and weak voluntary or limited pledges for emission cuts leading up to the global climate treaty negotiations in Paris next year."

President Obama’s response was disappointing as well. He shared the UN's rhetoric about “taking action” and “reducing emissions” yet the pledges the US made will not get us anywhere close to where we need to be in order to prevent major climate catastrophes.

Pablo Solon of Focus on the Global South shares some analysis in his article " How Did Leaders Respond to the People's Climate March?":

  • Insufficient Pledges: “With the weak voluntary pledges made under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)… emissions will be… about 30% more than the maximum amount the earth can handle, according to science... The United States ratified its current weak pledge of 3% of emission cuts by 2020 compared to 1990 levels, which means that they will do even less than what was agreed for the first period of the Kyoto Protocol which they never ratified and which ended in 2012.”
  • Weak Financing: “The other key point to assess is funding for developing countries that are suffering from climate change while being the least responsible for the problem… Based on what happened at the New York Summit, there would be no significant increase in funding for developing countries from public sources in developed countries.”
  • Clever Packaging of Markets: "For Ban Ki-moon, some heads of state, the business sector and the World Bank, the Climate Summit was a success because, from the beginning, their aim was not to close the emissions gap or to fill the Green Climate Fund. Rather, they sought to use this event – which is not part of the official process of UN negotiations – to launch more initiatives and carbon markets and to use the “summary of the chair” (Ban Ki-moon) as a way to introduce these proposals in the coming official negotiations in Lima, Peru, this December."
  • The UN's two clear goals were focused on “carbon pricing” and “Climate Smart Agriculture,” both of which are false promises that actually serve more to develop carbon trading markets than they do with reducing emissions or creating any tangible changes for frontline communities. Click here to read more about Climate Smart Agriculture in this press release from La Vía Campesina .

Despite inaction from global leaders, the People's Climate activities made last week historic. But what happens next matters even more. GGJ is organizing on the Road to Paris for the UNFCCC COP21 meetings in December 2015. Between now and then, global movements are coming together through a People’s Climate process to push global leaders to take the kind of climate action that frontline communities need.

Follow Grassroots Global Justice on Facebook and Twitter to stay tuned for next steps in this historic People’s Climate Process.

See below to check out some of our favorite articles and news coverage from this past week:


These Front-Line Communities Know What Climate Justice Would Mean—and They’re Not Seeing It at the UN by Wen Stephenson, The Nation

Front-Lines Communities Rising Up: Dispatches from People's Climate by Nadia Prupis and Sarah Lazare, Common Dreams

While UN Climate Summit Makes False Promises, People’s Climate Justice Summit Brings Community-led Solutions by Matt Feinstein

After Years of Racial Division, the Green Movement Gets Brown by Sally Kohn

Will the leaders of the People’s Climate March now lead the movement? by P.J. Podesta and Laura Smith

Long-Standing Economic Resistance Went Mainstream at People's Climate March by Kate Aranoff

What's Wrong with the Radical Critique of the People's Climate March by Jonathan Smucker and Michael Premo

Naomi Klein Tells Yes! Magazine: People's Climate March is a "Glimpse of the Movement we Need" by Sarah van Gelder

Climate Change: Not Just Any Action Will Do by Pablo Solon, Josie Riffaud and Tony Clarke

How Did Leaders Respond to the People’s Climate March? by Pablo Solon

Obama’s Pitiful Pledge Epitomizes Failure of UN Summit: Climate Campaigners by Sarah Lazare, Common Dreams

Climate Justice, Black Organizing, and Mike Brown by Nene Igietseme

When environmental activists march in New York, look for immigrants at the head of the parade by Bruce Wallace

Climate justice gets a new lease on life by Patrick Bond

Climate Justice Resurfaces amidst New York’s Corporate Sharks By Patrick Bond, Telesur TV


KPFK Terra Verde radio show, featuring Cindy Wiesner (GGJ) and Mari Rose Taruc (APEN) on September 12, 2014:


Voices of the People's Climate March - Climate Justice Alliance by Sean Yap Sei-Been Devlin and Nicky Young

Video by Planet Experts see min 3:24 for an interview with Michael Leon Guerrero of Climate Justice Alliance and his step-daughter Carina Mendez

The Daily Show, Burn Noticed (see Climate Justice Alliance banners and signs throughout the march footage)

Video of Women and Climate Justice panel moderated by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! on September 23, 2014: featuring Helena Wong of Grassroots Global Justice, Ursula Rakova from Papua New Guinea, and Regan Pritzker, a Global Greengrants board member.

Democracy Now Live:

Our Power Campaign leaders were three of the first five people interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now’s live coverage of the march (Jihan Gearon of Black Mesa Water Coalition at min 14:00, Elizabeth Yeampierre of Uprose at min 21:00, and Michael Leon Guerrero of Climate Justice Alliance at min 31:00).

Watch testimony from the People’s Tribunal, including leaders reading the statement they delivered to the UN.

Video of Book Launch event : This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate, Naomi Klein with Bill McKibben,, Michael Leon Guerrero,Climate Justice Alliance, Estela Vasquez, Executive Vice President SEIU Local 1199, Clayton Thomas-Muller, Idle No More, and Esperanza Martinez, Acción Ecológica