Socialist Worker

Global protests against climate change see massive mobilisations

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2422

Tens of thousands marched through central London last Sunday

Tens of thousands marched through central London last Sunday (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Hundreds of thousands of people marched for action against climate change last Sunday in a global day of protest that wildly exceeded organisers’ expectations.

Up to 50,000 people took part in a march more than a mile long in central London. 

There were people dressed as carbon bubbles, solar panels, melting ice-caps and a menagerie of endangered species. 

There were also a lot of placards with angry slogans against politicians, profit and capitalism.

Meera has followed the issue for a long time. 

She told Socialist Worker, “I just saw someone with a banner saying ‘system change not climate change’ and that’s exactly right, we need systematic change.”

Mark was on his first ever demonstration. 

He said, “The problem is that tackling climate change cuts into profits—so a lot of people need to get involved if we are to make the change.”

More than 400 demonstrated in both Sheffield and Nottingham, and 4,000 in Edinburgh. 


Anti-fracking campaigners and others held a mass march to the Labour Party conference in Manchester.

There were protests around the world, from tiny Pacific Islands threatened by rising seas to the major cities of Europe and South America.

Up to 400,000 people joined the world’s biggest ever climate demonstration in New York.

The United Nations (UN) held a climate change summit there on Tuesday of this week.

Lisa Cline decided to march after her home was flooded by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. “It woke us up to the global situation,” she said. 

“If things keep going like they are, our house will be under water in 20 years.”

The march included a large  trade union presence.

Fernando Losada of the National Nurses United union spoke by audio link to a Campaign Against Climate Change conference in London the day before the protest. 

He said, “This is a first for the labour movement. More than 200 local trades unions are taking part, as is the whole labour scene in New York.

“Our members have been galvanised through local campaigns against the extreme energy agenda—pipelines, fracking, refinery expansion—and that is what has helped mobilise for this demonstration.”

Tories have no solutions to climate change

Tories have no solutions to climate change (Pic: Guy Smallman)

We must act on emissions now

The UN has been holding meetings about climate change for 22 years and delivering nothing. Throughout that time emissions have increased.

At best, some governments now have bold-sounding targets to cut greenhouse emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050. They don’t have real plans to meet them.

Alice Hooker Stroud, a scientist at the Centre for Alternative Technology, told the London rally, “Even if those targets are met we’re looking at a world that’s three, four or more degrees hotter. 

“That’s not a world I want to think about, let alone live in.”

She also pointed out that Britain’s net carbon emissions could be cut to zero even with existing technology. She concluded, “Climate change is a big problem and it doesn’t have a small solution. But it’s a problem for our society, not our technology.”

A lobby movement is not enough

The protests were mostly organised by lobbying groups—such as 38 Degrees and Avaaz in Britain, and in the US—and environmental charities.

This meant they could mobilise people well beyond the reach of the left and the workers’ movement. 

In London this was evident from the almost total lack of trade union banners.

But it also limited the protests’ demands to ones that politicians at the UN summit might respond to—almost nothing, in other words.

At the rally, hard left speeches from celebrities such as Vivienne Westwood were carefully balanced out by reminders of respectability.

So, the Bishop of London told the rally, “We’re here to give the sympathetic politicians—and there are some—room to manoeuvre.”

Perhaps that’s why US president Barack Obama, UN general secretary Ban Ki-Moon, and massive polluting firms such as Unilever all felt they could comfortably back the protests.

But tackling climate change will mean going well beyond the limits set by politicians.

It will mean taking on the profit-hungry bosses who make money from polluting the planet.

Campaigners launch climate jobs report

Around 80 people attended a Campaign Against Climate Change conference last Saturday to launch the new edition of its One Million Climate Jobs report.

Speakers from the US, Norway, Mozambique and Belgium talked at the London event about building the international movement.

Trade unionists showed how they have used the union-sponsored report to raise climate change demands in the workers’ movement.

For example, a programme of insulating homes could wipe out fuel poverty, create 118,000 jobs and cut carbon emissions from housing by 85 percent.

To order copies of the report for your union branch or campaign group, go to

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.