Worldwide protests against climate change were set to take place this Sunday two days before a summit in the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York.
Politicians are supposed to be just 15 months away from signing the first major international treaty on greenhouse emissions for decades in Paris next year.
UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon called the New York summit. It is in addition to December’s planned UN climate change conference in Lima, Peru. This is in response to fears that they will get nowhere, even on their own narrow terms.
The IPCC, the UN’s body for monitoring climate science, recently released its starkest reports to date. It warned of global warming, rising seas, melting ice and disruption to rain and weather patterns if greenhouse emissions are not stopped fast.
Few politicians now question the science or deny the need for action. But they persist in doing next to nothing about it—and the line-up of the summit reflects this.
While more than 100 world leaders will be attending, some of the biggest polluters and key US allies are sending only junior ministers.
These include Canada and Australia, whose economies are increasingly dominated by destructive fossil fuel extraction, as well as India and Saudi Arabia.
There will also be top bosses from firms including Unilever, McDonald’s, Walmart and various deforestation, mining, oil and finance giants.
US president Barack Obama looks set to pose as the champion of the climate along with Chinese vice premier Zhang Gaoli. But it was Obama, with Chinese support, who scuppered the last attempt at a major treaty in Copenhagen in 2009.
He has grabbed the headlines with a scheme to cut carbon emissions from US power plants. But it relies on replacing coal with gas from fracking.
This comes with its own high environmental cost, including emissions of methane gas whose powerful greenhouse effect is not fully taken into account.
While the US is burning less coal, it is exporting more to sell abroad—with help from Obama. His government is leasing public land to coal corporations at a discount and helping push giant new projects in conservation areas through the courts.
Around 400 buses and trains have been booked from across the US to bring protesters to the People’s Climate March in New York, demanding a radical change of direction.
More than 1,500 events have been planned in solidarity around the world, according to organisers.
These include marches on Sunday in Berlin, Bogota, New Delhi, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Lagos, Melbourne, Paris and Rio de Janeiro—and London. Other protests are planned in Manchester, Sheffield and Kirklees.
The Campaign Against Climate Change trade union group is also holding a conference on Saturday to launch the new edition of its pamphlet on the case for a million climate jobs.
For a future that doesn’t cost the earth: The international fight for climate jobs Conference Saturday 20 September, 12 noon-5.30pm, Tower Building, London Metropolitan University, Holloway Road, London N7 8DB www.campaigncc.org/climatejobsconference2014