Tomorrow I was due to board the Eurostar to Paris for the climate march, in the company of friends and supporters of Tearfund. That’s not going to happen now, after recent events in Paris and the ongoing state of emergency. But I’ll tell you why I was going, and why I’ll be joining the march in London instead.
I’m not really one for demonstrations. When I was a student the biggest protest ever assembled failed to stop the rush to war in Iraq. Even though I know that protest does work some of the time, I tend to think the government isn’t listening. There was a ‘march against austerity’ this week ahead of the Chancellor’s autumn statement, and I don’t suppose it made an iota of difference to what George Osborne presented. And why should he? He’s an elected politician delivering what he said he would do. It’s what we voted for.
But there is something different about the climate march. For a start, it’s not just about getting the government’s attention. It’s bigger than that. Yes, there is a message, a list of ‘demands’. We want to send a clear signal that we want Britain to lead, to call for a climate deal that is ambitious, fair, and binding.
It’s also about unity. The climate march is a global event, with marches taking place in a whole string of key cities. Climate change is a global problem, and tackling it requires us to put aside national interest and cooperate in ways that we’ve never done before. The climate march is not a demonstration against climate change, or against government inaction. It’s a demonstration of unity, a show of global solidarity. We are together on this as citizens, and we need our leaders to have the same attitude.
Justice matters too. As I’ve written many times, including this week, climate change is a threat to the world’s poorest. Those who are most vulnerable to a changing climate are the least responsible – those with the smallest carbon footprints, living in countries with few historical emissions to their name. The energy intensive lifestyles of the rich world threaten the already fragile livelihoods of the poor. Climate change is still neatly filed as an ‘environmental issue’, all about ‘saving the planet’, but history may come to view it as a global injustice on a par with the slave trade. That’s why I’ll be joining a development agency on Saturday rather than an environmental one, though I support the aims of both. Since speaking up against injustice is a core aspect of my faith, it’s why I’ll be walking with a Christian development agency in particular.
Finally, the climate march is a statement of intent. It acknowledges that while the UN conferences are important, it needs all of us to make a difference in the fight against climate change. Whatever our leaders and negotiators decide, here are tens of thousands of people who will do something, who are prepared to do what they can to stop runaway climate change.
Whether you’re the marching type or not, the climate march is worth turning out for. Look up the website to see if there’s one near you. And if you’re in the Luton area and going along, get in touch and we’ll walk together.