September 29, 2014

The Climate March is On!

On September 21st, hundreds of thousands of individuals and organizations participated in the People’s Climate March in cities around the globe. In New York City alone, the crowd was estimated at 300,000 strong. While the crowd in Toronto may have been smaller the enthusiasm was the same. In whatever city the march began, the aim from Melbourne to New York was to mobilize individuals and highlight the need for government leaders to take action on climate change by moving away from unsustainable fossil fuels and moving towards more clean energy by 2050.

People's Climate March Image: By South Bend Voice via Wikimedia Commons

Image: By South Bend Voice via Wikimedia Commons


The People’s Climate March (#PCM) in New York included the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon himself, who on Tuesday will open the UN’s upcoming climate summit with an aim to mobilize leaders from around the world to take action “that will reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience, and mobilize political will for a meaningful legal agreement in 2015.” Canada will be represented by Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq at the climate summit, not by Prime Minister Stephen Harper who will be addressing the UN General Assembly later in the week. What does this say about Canada’s commitment to addressing climate change? Well, in the recent past, Canada has earned a reputation as a laggard on climate change action and has frequently won the ‘Fossil Award’ for its lack of progressive action at various UN sponsored climate change negotiations as well as other actions including the Canadian Government’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol.

At the provincial level, the new Minister of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, Glen  Murray (who took part in the New York march) appears committed to addressing climate change and has stated that, “fighting climate change and working to keep our air, land, and water clean will ensure Ontario’s prosperity and quality of life for today and future generations.” At the same time regional and city-level municipalities are increasingly mobilized to address both climate mitigation and adaptation.

Having had the opportunity to take part in Toronto’s People’s Climate March and having heard the stories of the massive numbers of people that attended similar events around the planet the momentum generated from this grassroots efforts has been incredible. Today, hundreds of protesters once again took to the streets of New York City, this time, specifically Wall Street. The #FloodWallStreet campaigners staged a pizza party sit-in while at the same time the heirs to Standard Oil fortune, the now Rockefeller Foundation committed to divesting from fossil fuels. A momentous announcement for an organization that was build on the development of fossil fuels.

The call for action has been trumpeted from crowds across the globe. The question remains as to whether or not global leadership has heard the call  at a time of such global unrest (e.g., the West-African Ebola outbreak, the conflict in the Syria, Ukraine and elsewhere). While the upcoming climate summit will undoubtedly come with a heavy helping of rhetoric, the call for action has never been louder. While the impacts and costs of climate change continue to grow so do the numbers of people calling for action locally and internationally. What is clear is that while the People’s Climate March on Sunday the 21st may have been the world’s largest to date, that record is not likely to stand very long given the tremendous up-welling of support for global action on climatechange.

If you’re interested in sharing your story of participation in  the People’s Climate March please contact us on Twitter @ontarioclimate.

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