Saturday 3rd December 2005 saw the biggest demos yet around the world on climate change. In London around 8,000 people marched to the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square under the shadow of the American Eagle.
Here’s how it looked on my mobile phone. Click to play this clip and all the extracts from speeches:
The event was organised by the Campaign against Climate Change and went off in friendly and well-organised spirit.
Michael Meacher MP, former Labour Minister for the Environment opened up the themes of the day – that action was desperately urgent, that Kyoto was a start but the US administration was preventing it being built on.
Here’s the first clip of his speech (sent to OneWorld from the mobile phone). Click to listen as he gets straight into the numbers:
His next demand was a wholehearted commitment to renewables, which he described as ‘the answer’.
Other speakers included Caroline Lucas MEP for the South East of England and a wide range of campaigners.
To some extent the event lacked focus. If it was intended to send a message to the UK and US governments, it wasn’t entirely clear what that message was. In particular there was no agreement on a simple pair of numbers to unite around. Michael Meacher said we need a 20% cut by 2020, others said it was 60% by 2050 – but at the end we were told by George Monbiot that the science was unequivocal that we needed a 90% cut by 2030. The Rising Tide group were the most radical – advocating direct civil disobedience to get our voices heard.
The final speaker was George Monbiot – given the resounding title of Honorary President of the Climate Change Campaign
He certainly didn’t disappoint – not least by taking a surprising tack. He started 3 million years back when life before fossil fuels was harsh in the extreme. But fossil fuels, and oil in particular, have built a civilisation of which we are the luckiest but last inheritors. Now there is no alternative to contraction and convergence:
We need targets and cuts – we need rationing on a global scale. The figure he confronted us with – a 90% cut in the next 25 years – was a real shock and much higher than others were using. It sent me back to his Guardian article of last week. There he says “80% to 90%” is needed by 2030.
From a UK perspective he links this to the maximum of 40% that we could save in homes, according to the Oxford Environmental Change Institute. He then combines this with the total replacement value of renewables in this time frame to reach the conclusion that we will be forced to use more gas (combined with carbon burial) or even turn to nuclear – unless we can reduce demand.
So the case for contraction seems unanswerable. Even if renewables can do better than he suggests (as some are arguing) and even if global agreements can be put in place in time (including by the US), 90% remains such a high target that it’s going to be difficult to motivate people to believe it can be achieved. But if he’s right and there’s no alternative…
And it’s not as simple as blaming Bush and Blair:
All this makes our movement a unique one in human history – unique in what we are calling for:
And George leaves us with a rather Buddhist final thought:
But what I will remember most from the day was the fervour of a former colleague, Miles Litvinoff. He has family in Chile and he was agonising over the fact that he now feels passionately that he can no longer justify the consequences of flying there. The future we are all going to have to face.