“Think Global, Act Local”… So we did. On 21st November 2005, a Monday night when most of Sheffield was gridlocked thanks to a broken down bus, Sheffield Friends of the Earth forsook our usual monthly meeting in the Red Deer to join a Public Meeting "Challenging Climate Change" in the basements of the Arts Tower of Sheffield University. As well as some impassioned speeches from Dr Jillian Creasey (Sheffield Green Councillor), Phil Thornhill (National Coordinator, Campaign against Climate Change) and Maxine Bowler (Sheffield RESPECT) our own Steve Goodacre explained the FoE contribution – in particular “The Big Ask”, FoE’s climate change campaign. There was time for a range of contributions from the audience, but most importantly there was an opportunity to get coach tickets to London for the forthcoming International Day of Action on Climate Change.
Saturday 3 December was chosen as International Day of Action on Climate Change to coincide with the Montreal Climate Conference and demonstrations around the world were planned to demand action from our governments and support for international treaties as the only way forward. Not sure what to expect when the day finally arrived, we made it down to Lincoln's Inn Fields to join over 10,000 demonstrators from every known environment group and a few unknown!
To the beat of the ever enthusiastic samba band, the march wound its way through the streets of London, taking in essential tourist spots such as the Esso headquarters (where a few friendly tigers were having their own small protest watched by a large crowd of friendly police), the Australian Embassy and Downing Street. We walked passed stationary traffic along the Embankment and through bemused but supportive Christmas shoppers, through Trafalgar Square and up Pall Mall, through Berkley Square and – after two hours banner-waving and sight-seeing ended up outside the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square. Julie and Maureen had been handing out postcards for the Stop M1-widening campaign and we took the opportunity to put the banner up outside the Embassy (and get a few photos to prove we were there!). There were speeches from George Monbiot, Caroline Lucus and David Rovics, but we had trains or coaches home to catch and set off back through the Oxford Street Christmas shoppers, by now all heading home like the marchers…
After getting home, exhausted but proud to have been part of such a huge event (10,000 was the Sunday papers’ best estimate of numbers), we followed the Montreal negotiations with renewed hope.
A week later the BBC reported “Ministers at the climate change conference in Montreal have made a series of breakthroughs in plans to combat global warming.” On the conference's last day, Kyoto Protocol signatories agreed to extend the treaty on emissions reductions beyond its 2012 deadline. And a broader group of countries including the US agreed to non-binding talks on long-term measures. This means we still have a long way to go to reach the binding international treaties or US commitment that will be needed to turn some good intentions into reality. But climate change is the biggest man-made environmental threat our world has ever seen, so campaigning – both local and global need to carry on.
As well as supporting the international Campaign on Climate Change, Sheffield Friends of the Earth need to identify what we can do locally to raise awareness and encourage campaigning. So if you have any ideas or just want to join in do get in touch.
Stop Climate Chaos is planning a mass mobilisation in London in April 2006. Friends of the Earth would like to contribute towards a strong presence, so that politicians and the public know there is widespread support for policies to tackle climate change. Please let us know if you would be interested in attending such a demo so we can organise something in Sheffield. Hopefully we’ll be able to make it bigger and better than December’s demo in London.