Last Saturday saw Britain’s biggest ever march and rally against climate change. Around 50,000 people took to the streets of central London.
Some 20,000 people rallied outside the US embassy in Grosvenor Square, organised by the Campaign Against Climate Change (CACC).
They then marched to the huge Stop Climate Chaos rally in Trafalgar Square. The People and Planet group’s march from Malet Street had around 1,000 people on it, mainly students.
Many protesters were angry and concerned at the lack of government action over the issue. The Stern report, released last week, laid bare the scale of the climate crisis.
Green Party MEP Caroline Lucas spoke at the CACC rally. She said, “Climate change is a far greater threat than international terrorism.
“If the government spent a fraction of the money it spends on war on climate change, the world would be a much safer place.
“Stern says nothing in his report that Tony Blair did not already know. Despite this knowledge, since Labour came to power in 1997 we have seen climate change gas emissions go up and massive spending on roads and aviation.
“Emissions worldwide need to be reduced by 90 percent by 2030.”
Rania Khan, a Respect councillor in Tower Hamlets, east London, told the crowd, “We say climate before profit. Individual actions are important, but it is the system which needs to change to achieve the cut in greenhouse gas emissions required to stop runaway global warming.
“If the government are worried about where the money will come from to implement these measures, they could cancel Trident and stop waging illegal wars.
“The people are way ahead of governments in understanding that it is entirely possible to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions.”
There was a general feeling among people that we have to act now to save the planet.
Campaigner and writer George Monbiot said, “This demonstration has to be the start of a mobilisation that does not end until we have achieved a 90 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions. We have to show that it is not too late to act.”
Voices from the London protest demand fundamental change
There was a mix of people at the Campaign Against Climate Change rally in Grosvenor Square. Many people had joined their first ever demonstration.
James from Leicester said, “This is a great day. I think it’s right that we started off outside the embassy of the world’s largest polluter - the US.
“But we can’t let our own government off the hook. Tony Blair might be better than George Bush at sounding like he might understand the science - but there is very little action following up his grand promises.
“I think that Friends of the Earth’s Big Ask campaign for 3 percent emission cuts per year is a good start. It’s not enough, but we should be lobbying our MPs to get it pushed through.”
Laura came to the demonstration from Brighton. She said, “I was really glad that the speakers talked about the need for unity over this issue - but how do we force the politicians to act?
“The Stern report’s timetable is too slow and its targets too low - and even then I don’t believe Blair will act. Its good to have so many people on the streets, but we have to keep protesting.”
Fay from north London said, “Last year I was on the Make Poverty History demonstration in Edinburgh.
“I really thought that Tony Blair was listening. Climate change and poverty were the top of his agenda he said. Now I’m not so sure.
“The truth is there’s no profit in saving the planet. So it’s up to us.”
Sarah from Warwick university said, “We have to do whatever is necessary to stop climate change. We need less cars. We need a collective effort, but business has to be seen as the main problem.
“If Britain and the US spent their military budgets on sustainable development and on feeding people rather than bombing people, the world would be completely different.”
Some protesters told Socialist Worker that they were concerned about the focus put on individual action, rather than on forcing corporations and government to act, by the speakers at Trafalgar Square.
But last Saturday’s protest showed the mood and the power that can save the planet.
For more on the London and international demonstrations go to www.campaigncc.org