For anyone looking for a bellwether of our country’s stance on climate change, the People’s Climate March in New York City sent a clear signal: nearly half a million people took to the streets last Sunday to demand “Climate Action Now”. It was the largest climate mobilization in history, planned in advance of this week’s United Nations summit to signal to world leaders- particularly President Obama- that it’s time to get serious about fighting climate change.
The march surpassed all projections of its size and scope, with at least 1,500 diverse groups representing labor unions, youth movements, faith assemblies, and a wide variety of other stakeholders. The strong presence of social justice groups showed a spreading awareness that low-income neighborhoods and communities of color are affected “first and worst” by climate impacts, and that shifting to a more sustainable economy could build a more just economy.
Our unprecedented and sometimes lethal weather over the past several years, from hurricanes to droughts to wildfires, convinced these protesters and the millions they represent that climate change is in progress and that we must transition to a clean energy, lower-impact economy to stem and reverse the tide of global warming.
Simultaneous marches in almost 170 other countries, from Britain to Burundi, underscored the global nature of the problem and the remedy. The task of the 100 world leaders at this week’s UN summit was to set the foundation for a draft agreement for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change conference in Lima in December, which would ideally be finalized in Paris in 2015.
On Tuesday, President Obama spoke at the Summit to highlight the country’s readiness to take leadership on climate change on the global stage. He announced our participation in over a dozen new climate change partnerships launched at the meeting, as well as a new initiative to strengthen the climate resilience of vulnerable populations worldwide. The Executive Order on Climate-Resilient International Development will require U.S. agencies to factor climate-resilience considerations, such as changing water availability and migrating disease vectors, into all development work abroad.
President Obama has also taken crucial steps to address climate change on a national level. Over the summer, the Obama administration announced the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from power plants, which will dramatically reduce pollution from some of our dirtiest energy sources. Additionally, the President’s Climate Action Plan has significantly increased our renewable energy production and decreased our carbon pollution to its lowest level in nearly 20 years.
However, as this weekend’s marchers can testify, there is more to be done on every level to strengthen our resilience and avoid the worst impacts of climate change. At a local level, communities are using urban planning and energy conservation to make meaningful change; nationally, we must build political will for a strong international commitment in Lima this December.
The momentum that was unleashed this weekend is not going away; as one activist’s sign read, “There Is No Planet B”. We all need to be part of the solution. #ActOnClimate. Click here to take action now.