Climate change marchers urge politicians to keep their promises

Fr Peter Hughes (centre) before the march

Fr Peter Hughes (centre) before the march

Columban Father Peter Hughes has called for politicians to be made accountable for the promises they make regarding climate change. Taking part in the climate change service at St Mary le Strand in London on Saturday, prior to the start of the annual climate change march, the head of Columban JPIC suggested that "when a part of creation dies, a bit of us dies as well".

Welcoming people to the church, Operation Noah board member Sister Louisa Poole, delivered the opening prayer, calling on human beings to become "future forgers". She highlighted how the choices people make, "no matter how small, resonate across every strand of the cosmic web".

Speaker Scott Albrecht of the Catholic Worker Farm in Hertfordshire suggested that "a Christian should have the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other". He called for Christians "to take responsibility in making this world a holy place, a place where people can live in peace and unafraid".

Around 150 people took part in the Ecumenical Climate Change Service, which included all present - including those packed in the porch - writing down a pledge they undertook to complete over the next few months to help halt climate change.

Following the service, the participants processed around to Lincoln Inns Fields for the start of the Climate Change march. The 15,000 strong march made its way along Holborn onto the Strand past Trafalgar Square to the final rally on St Stephens Green outside Parliament.

Led by the cyclists, the march processed along in the spring sunshine. Each had their own way of bearing witness, one man in a bright green outfit protesting against radioactive and fossil fuel waste took a refreshing lager at the Coal hole pub. Another woman carried a banner calling to Outside Downing Street, ten protesters lined up spelling out 'Time to Cycle'.

Groups from across the country were represented on the march from Operation Noah, Christian Ecology Link, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to trade unions like Unite, Unison and the Fire Brigade Union (FBU).

The Green Party was also well in evidence. At the rally, John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace, contrasted the urgency with which politicians and business moved to address the financial crisis with the dithering and inaction displayed when it comes to dealing with climate change. He highlighted the battle ahead against corporate interests that continue to peddle fossil fuels. Sauven highlighted Shell's move back to oil exploration in the Arctic, a move ironically only made feasible by the thawing of glaciers, caused by global warming. "No company should be able to profit from the impact they are having on the well being of the planet," said Sauven. He quoted Denmark as an example of a country acting to counter climate change with its commitment to go fossil fuel free. "We can have clean energy and clean jobs if we stick together", said Sauven.

Kat Hobbs from Campaign Against the Arms Trade called for government funds to be moved from weapons to addressing climate change. "The government is handing billions to arms companies," said Hobbs, who said there is something seriously wrong when 25 times more is being spent on developing weapons than renewables.

Bert Wander from Avaaz, which helped raise a petition to ensure that the march was able to go ahead, pointed out that renewables are getting cheaper and being rolled out across the world. The growth of the divestment movement in relation to those contributing to climate change was cited as another positive development. Wander called for campaigners to ensure that the four words "zero emissions by 2050" remained part of the climate change agreement due to be enacted by governments in Paris at the end of the year.

There was a video message from fashion designer Vivienne Westwood who took hope from the Scottish Nationalist Party and Green MPs when it comes to tackling climate change. Gary Shrubsole, a Friends of the Earth campaigner, highlighted the success of the battle to stop fracking, with moratoriums in Scotland and Wales, with life being made increasingly difficult for frackers in England. "We've got the six energy companies on the run - there is a crisis of trust and profit," said Shrubsole, who paid tribute to the 500,000 households that now have solar panels on their roofs.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas declared that people have the power and they are saying no to fossil fuels and climate change. She claimed the technology to tackle climate change is already there, what is now needed is the political will to make it happen.

Labour MP John McDonnell called for people to come and help his community in Hayes and Harlington in the latest stage of the fight to stop a third runway being built at Heathrow airport.

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Tags: Climate Change March, Fr Peter Hughes, Sr Louise Poole

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