Up to 2,000 people marched through central London on Saturday to demand action on climate change.
The “Together for climate justice” demonstration, organised by the Campaign Against Climate Change, brought together environmental activists, trade unionists, workers and students.
Yasmin told Socialist Worker she was demonstrating about climate change partly because of a renewed focus on the issue. “We’ve got to make the most of it and put the pressure on the government,” she said.
Many speakers saw the protest as an opportunity to pile pressure on the Tories ahead of Sunday’s COP24 climate talks in Poland.
Clive Lewis, a Labour shadow treasury minister responsible for sustainability, told the crowd that “Jeremy Corbyn and the front bench understand we need the most radical action on climate change”.
He argued that the “treasury needs to be at the front and centre” of fighting for climate justice.
Big cheers erupted through the demonstration when speakers mentioned the “School strikes 4 Climate Action” strikes that swept through Australia on Friday.
And Nita Sanghera UCU union vice president said trade unionists had to fight for a “sustainable economy”.
She said education would play a vital role in equipping students with the skills needed in a green economy and UCU members “have an integral part to play in the future.”
Flags from new environmental action group Extinction Rebellion were on the demonstration. Hannah spoke from the group, which she said now had 75 groups in the UK, and 22 others globally.
“The environmental movement has to be bold and we have to use every tactic in the toolbox”, she said.
Everyone wanted urgent action.
Sian Berry, co-leader of the Green party, agreed that a movement to “demand radical and bold action” was needed.
“There is hope for the fight and that hope is the radical ideas that Green Party members have every day.”
“When I say hope, I don’t mean optimism—I mean a call to action.”
Many on the streets thought that huge change would be needed to save the world from climate catastrophe.
For Victoria, who had travelled from Worcester, a big part of the solution was tackling “consumption”.
“Everything we buy has an impact on someone else somewhere in the world. From packaging to fashion, I want people to only buy what they need”, she said.
Others pointed to changing the system.
“In the short term, we don’t need another terminal at Heathrow, we don’t need fracking. But how much can we change in the current system?” Yasmin asked.
Kate agrees, and told Socialist Worker ,“We need as much structural change as possible. Everyone is pushed to save water, and recycle—it’s great but it’s so minimal. I don’t think the individual way is enough because behaviour will take decades to change.”
Lots of speakers at the rally outside the Polish embassy spoke about the need to link the environmental movement against other fights.
Asad Rehman from charity War on Want said, “Our challenge is to commit our climate fight to the fight for racial justice, gender justice and social justice.”
He blasted “a system of neoliberalism that puts profit before planet” and “a system that says black, brown and poor people can suffer”.
The protest brought together campaigners from a wide variety of different issues. Placards spoke of the need to stop fracking, and halt the Tories’ plan to expand Heathrow airport.
Neil Cameron from the No Third Runway coalition said that Heathrow expansion would be devastating for communities living under its flightpath.
“But ultimately it’s about the future of the planet” he said.
The demonstration—and the enthusiasm for the actions called by Extinction Rebellion—show the potential for a wider mass movement to stop catastrophic climate change.