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Global Climate Change rallies push for urgent action


In London, STWR joined over 10,000 campaigners who braved the wind and December downpours to walk from the Houses of Parliament to the US embassy.

Thousands of demonstrators took part in a ‘global day of action’ on the 8th of December to push governments to take tougher measures on combating climate change.

The mass event, coordinated across more than 50 cities worldwide to coincide with the UN climate change talks in Bali, was the largest protest rally held so far as a stark warning against impending environmental catastrophe.

In London, STWR joined an estimated 10,000 marchers who braved the wind and December downpours to walk from the Houses of Parliament to the US embassy. 

In the early morning, hundreds of bikers circled Parliament Square to protest against the city’s traffic problem and its effect on global warming, with the loudest catcalls targeting President Bush.  The Bush administration, said UK organisers from Campaign Against Climate Change, is the biggest obstacle to progress in the Bali talks. 

Other marchers wielded signs marked “We must change, not the climate”, and “There is no Planet B”.  STWR’s large banners, marked simply “One Planet: Share the World’s Resources”, was featured on theBBC coverage of the event.

A letter delivered by protesters to Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: “We feel that dealing with this threat should be the number one priority of the British government, a priority for all areas of policy and across all departments of government.” 

It also urged the government “to secure an equitable emissions treaty that is effective in preventing the catastrophic destabilisation of global climate and which minimises dangerous climate change.”  Campaigners are calling for the British government to introduce a climate change bill as soon as possible to reduce UK emissions by at least 80% by 2050, with annual reviews to prevent “slippage” on the targets. 

In other cities, activists including young schoolchildren and families joined the call for drastic global cuts in CO2 emissions.  At the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, a polar bear sculpture was made out of 15 tonnes of ice, while in Helsinki, Finland, demonstrators ground their skis in a main shopping street to ask policymakers to give them their snowy winters back. 

The rallies came midway through the UN summit in Bali which is aiming to draw the “road map” to a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol.  Only 36 industrial nations signed up to emissions caps under the 1997 treaty, which expires in five years' time after failing to measure up to the escalating crisis.  Despite pledging to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by a modest total of around 5 percent of 1990 levels by 2012, rich nations have instead increased them by 11 percent.

After one week of talks, it looks unlikely that the United States – the world’s biggest carbon emitter – will sign any new blueprint.  China and India, who the US wants to shoulder a greater share of emissions cuts, will not have to act until 2012 owing to their exemption status as developing countries, despite being two of the five largest sources for carbon dioxide emissions. 

Critics argue that without the US signing up, a long-term response to climate change is bound to be ineffective.  The new Australian Labor government, who ratified the Kyoto treaty days before the Bali conference, is also standing accused of not fully declaring its position on a 25 to 40 percent cut in emissions by 2020.

As the crucial negotiations continue, a series of dire reports presented to global leaders spell out the urgency of climate change mitigation.  Weeks before the conference, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that it is “clear beyond doubt that climate change is a reality”, and that it poses a serious threat to the future development of the world’s economies, societies and ecosystems. 

If no action is taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the IPCC reported that the earth’s temperature could rise by 4.5 degrees.  Even a two-degree rise in global temperatures, warned a separate report released in Bali on Friday, could flip the Amazon forest from being the Earth's vital air conditioner to “a flamethrower that cooks the planet”.

At the UK protest march, Friends of the Earth director Tony Juniper spoke of the urgency for governments to act: “It is essential our politicians show the leadership required and ensure that the climate talks in Bali speed the world towards a low-carbon future, and ensure the long-term security of generations to come.”