by Sha Grogan-Brown, Grassroots Global Justice
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.
- The Flood Wall Street actions on Monday September 22 were also historic because of the collaboration between Occupy activists and grassroots organizers—four years after Occupy Wall Street, Occupy activists responded to a call to action from the Climate Justice Alliance and organized a mass sit-in on Wall Street under the banner: “Stop Capitalism. End the Climate Crisis. The economy of the 1% is destroying the planet, flooding our homes, and wrecking our communities.”
- On Monday September 22 and Tuesday September 23, the Our Power Campaign held a People’s Climate Justice Summit and a People’s Tribunal to offer up community-led solutions and call out the False Promises that the UN is calling “Climate Action.” Leaders from frontline communities across the US and around the globe spoke on plenaries and tribunals, laying out the numerous horrifying impacts of the climate change on their communities, and also explaining the numerous ways their communities are organizing and building solutions. Read this article summarizing the People’s Climate Justice Summit plenaries
- On Tuesday September 23, members of the Our Power Campaign took action to deliver a statement to the United Nations calling out their inaction on climate change and calling on global leaders to catch up to communities on the ground who know what kind of Climate Action they really need. The statement was delivered by 30 members of the Our Power Campaign, along with bundles of sunflowers, which have become a symbol for today’s grassroots climate justice movement. “Sunflowers serve to remove harmful toxics from the soil, while providing nutrients and shelter for animal life above ground. We present these sunflowers to the global leaders at the UN Climate Summit as a symbol of the community-led solutions we are growing.”
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.