Over 675,000 of us made history by marching for change

Since the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009, climate-related disasters have:

  • cost the world almost half a trillion dollars
  • affected than 650 million people
  • caused 112,000 lives to be lost

Right now climate change is making life for millions of people around the world and the fight against hunger much harder. What’s being done about this? On September 21st, just two days before UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon gathered world leaders to discuss climate change for the first time since Copenhagen, well over half a million people in 161 countries took to the streets to demand more ambitious action from businesses and governments to tackle climate change.  In New York, where Ban Ki-Moon’s meeting was taking place, we saw the biggest ever climate related mobilisation as an incredible 400,000+ people marched through the streets of the city calling for change. All over the planet people joined in the action at more than 2800 events in Brazil, Canada, France, Belgium, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand,  South Africa, the United Kingdom and many, many more countries. The people have spoken and it’s time for leaders to listen up.

People around the world are clearly calling for action on the impacts of climate change but shockingly political leaders are still not stepping up. 

French President François Hollande pledged $1bn for the Green Climate Fund (a key tool in fighting climate change), with just over $300m more from a range of countries including Denmark, Norway and Luxembourg, South Korea and Mexico. European Commission President José Manuel Barroso reiterated the EU engagement to dedicate 20% of the 2014-2020 EU budget for external action on climate action but he noticeably made no commitment on the GCF. Equally silent on this front were the leaders of the UK, US, Netherlands, Japan, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

There were progressive commitments from Chile, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Malaysia Mexico,  and the inspiring examples of Costa Rican and Tuvalu who will be 100% powered by clean energy by 2016 and 2020 respectively. While Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli restated China’s plan to cut carbon emissions by 40-45% of what they were in 2005 in the next six years, and promised to name a date soon by when Chinese emissions would peak and start to fall. 

So while there were some positive signals sent, especially from developing country governments, overall these outcomes really served as a reminder that we have a long way to go if we are serious about taking on — and winning — the fight against climate change and ultimately ensuring everyone has enough to eat. Even though we didn’t see enough from the politicians present, we did witness the awe-inspiring sight of over 675,000 passionate people showing how much they care about the future of our planet and the people on it. As part of this mass movement, we’re not just going to go away quietly now that the summit is over and the participants are back to their day jobs.

Meanwhile the business sector offered mixed messages. Large scale trader Cargill announced that it would apply its forest-friendly palm oil policy across all commodities. Nestle joined Caring for Climate, the world's largest coalition on climate issues. Six of the 10 largest Food and Beverage companies: Unilever, Kellogg, Nestle, Danone, General Mills and Mondelez are all signatories to the New York Declaration on Deforestation. And thanks to Oxfam supporters General Mills and Kellogg committed to reducing emissions throughout their supply chains. Much of industry, including fossil fuel companies, remained conspicuously silent though.

Another milestone in the fight against climate change is fast approaching. In early October we will release our next scorecard update for the Behind the Brands campaign, which rates the top food and drinks companies on a number of key indicators. This is done by a rigorous review of companies’ policies, public statements and commitments covering areas such as farmers, women, transparency, land, water and climate change. The companies featured on the scorecard are clearly recognising now that people powered campaigning is making a difference. "Kellogg is proud to contribute to substantial and scalable solutions that address the impact of climate change on food security and global nutrition," said Diane Holdorf, Chief Sustainability Officer, Kellogg Company.  The actions of hundreds of thousands of people like you have forced food and drink companies to address vulnerabilities in their supply chains and improve their policies on people and planet. Then later this year, the formal pledging conference for the Green Climate Fund will take place, shortly before world leaders will be coming together again in Peru for the annual UN ‘Conference of the Parties’ (COP) to reignite conversations about securing a global deal on climate change. These negotiations will need to make progress on a new global agreement that is both adequate (in line with what is required to keep global warming below 2°C) and fair (in sharing the responsibility for emission reductions and finance).  All around the world the appetite for real action on climate change couldn’t be clearer, it’s on us all now to keep putting pressure on political and business leaders to act.  

“The alarm bells keep ringing, our citizens keep marching. We can’t pretend we don’t hear them, we must answer their call.” Barack Obama, UN Climate Summit, September 23, 2014.

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