Socialist Worker

Britain’s biggest ever climate change demo

by Matthew Cookson
Issue No. 1980

Last Saturday’s climate change demonstration weaves its way through central London (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Last Saturday’s climate change demonstration weaves its way through central London (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Some 10,000 mainly young people marched through central London last Saturday against the inaction of the US and British governments over climate change.

The protest was the biggest ever demonstration over the issue in Britain and was part of the international day of action over climate change.

This was timed to coincide with the United Nations Montreal conference of countries that have signed up to the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.

There was deep anger against Tony Blair and his support for the US, which has refused to sign up to Kyoto.

Blair has recently cast doubt on a post-Kyoto international treaty with legally binding ­targets on reducing emissions of carbon dioxide that cause climate change.

Protesters handed a letter in to 10 Downing Street calling for action on climate change. The march rallied outside the US embassy in Grosvenor Square.

People’s fears over the growing environmental catastrophe were increased last week as scientists announced that the ocean current that bathes Britain in warm tropical waters is weakening.

The meridional current, which drives the Gulf stream, has slowed down by one third in the last 12 years. If the current remains weak it could lead to a one degree centigrade drop in Britain’s temperature.

The majority of people on last Saturday’s demonstration were opposed to New Labour’s plans to build new nuclear power plants.

Michael Meacher, former Labour environment minister, received a huge cheer when he said, “We have to stop burning fossil fuels and do more to develop renewable energy sources. That is the right answer — not going down the nuclear route.

“That will bring thousands of tonnes of dangerous wastes, ­cancer and leukaemia clusters around nuclear plants and the risk of catastrophe. We need nuclear like we need a hole in the head.”

Phil Thornhill of the Campaign Against Climate Change, which organised the protest, told the rally, “This will be the greatest political campaign the world will ever see. It is confronting the greatest threat humanity has ever seen.”

Elaine Graham-Leigh of Respect said, “This year we have watched poor black people die in New Orleans.

“We have seen the war on Iraq. We have seen that the oil companies are not willing to give up profits and move away from oil.

“Today is the beginning of the global movement against climate change and for social justice. The world does not belong to the oil companies and is not the property of Bush and Blair.

“It is our world and we will not allow them to mess it up for profits.”

Writer and activist Jonathan Neale from Globalise Resistance said, “What happened in New Orleans reveals the reality of climate change and the rottenness of the society dominated by the screaming eagle on top of the US embassy.

“In Pakistan and Kashmir 100,000 people will die in the cold after the earthquake there as the governments of the world do nothing. We need a global new deal to stop climate change.

“They want nuclear power because they want nuclear bombs. Nuclear bombs are the same threat to the planet as climate change, they just do it quicker.

“We are going to build a movement that can change the world and save the planet.”


Voices raised in protest

People came to London from across England and Wales for the demonstration.

“This is about the future of our planet,” said Zaynab, a college student from east London. “We want to make a difference. We want kids to have a future.

“We have been raising the issues among students at our college.”

Tom Wilson, a student in Lincolnshire, told Socialist Worker, “There were 34 people on our bus from Lincoln. I am worried about the way the government is going back on the Kyoto agreement by failing to meet its emissions cuts targets.

“I am also concerned about nuclear power — there are much safer and better alternatives, such as solar and wind.

“I am a student tree surgeon and when you see the leaves on the trees at this time of year it’s not normal.

“I have also been on some of the anti-war marches and I campaign for the things I feel strongly about.”

Hazel, Emma, Emily and Natalie came from a Cambridge sixth form college. They said, “The planet is being destroyed and we don’t have a say. We are underestimating the impact of climate change.

“All other countries are pulling their weight, while the US and Britain are going backwards.”

Farhan Ali is a student in Bradford and a Respect member. He said, “A coach load of people have come from Bradford. Respect has been heavily involved in bringing local people here. The climate march is for everyone. We have to preserve nature.”


Marches around the globe

Last Saturday’s global protest took place in more than 30 countries. Some 3,500 gathered in Sydney, Australia and 10,000 in Australia as a whole. Around 500 protested in Edinburgh.

Another 2,000 protested in Istanbul and 1,000 each in two other Turkish cities. A number of smaller demonstrations took place around the world including in countries gravely threatened by climate change such as Bangladesh, where a demonstration occurred in the capital Dhaka.

Some countries had their first ever demonstration on climate change including South Korea and Russia.

The biggest demonstration took place in Montreal, Canada, where the United Nations climate talks are taking place.

Jesse McLaren in Canada reports, “40,000 people marched in the streets of Montreal. There was broad participation — from environmental organisations, student groups, trade unionists, and peace activists — and a strong youth presence.

“The mood was energetic and links with the anti-war movement clear. A banner from an Ottawa peace group read, ‘Wage war on pollution, not people.’

“Montreal has had a number of mass mobilisations in recent years. Last year a student general strike forced the government to repeal some of their budget cuts, and the year before mass protests helped stop Canada from sending troops to Iraq.

“This hot climate of resistance has also seen the birth of a new left coalition party, l’Union des Forces Progressistes — the Union of Progressive Forces — which has helped build these demonstrations.”

For more on the campaign go to www.campaigncc.org or the international site www.globalclimatecampaign.org


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Sat 10 Dec 2005, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1980
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