Time to ACT!
A coalition of green groups across the North East is planning the region’s largest Climate March to coincide with the Paris COP21 summit.
For the third of our articles on climate change in the lead up to the Paris summit in December, I’ve been investigating the work being done by campaigners in the North East . A few months ago, I’d have struggled to name more than a couple of groups in the region calling for a tougher response to global warming. That was until I started digging around and what I found astonished me. The North East has nearly 40 different campaign groups led by green champions, all trying their best to drive this burning issue up the agenda.
Last week I travelled through torrential rain and raging wind to reach Gallery 45 in Felton. The forboding weather seemed appropriate as I joined the couple of dozen attendees at Tony Claydon’s lecture on the forecast impacts of climate change on the region. Titled ‘Swimming in the Shopping Mall’, the former Northumbria University academic took his audience on a journey through the scientific evidence for global warming and how it could impact on the lives of those from Berwick down to Teesside. A series of maps and photomontages presented the shocking possibility that large areas of our coastline will be significantly affected by sea level rises caused by melting ice at the poles, although the timescale for such change is difficult to assess.
Tony explained how he was first spurred into action after the birth of his grandson coincided with the 5th IPCC report in 2013. He began wondering about what we’re leaving for future generations and asking serious questions about his own lifestyle. ‘It’s important to divide opinion from fact,’ he stresses time and again throughout his lecture.Inspired to find out more, he started reading everything he could find on climate change. ‘I had no idea that we know so much!’ says Tony but he’s frustrated by how much of the discussion is polemical. ‘It’s important to divide opinion from fact,’ he stresses time and again throughout his lecture. Ending with a call to action, he points out that there’s plenty each of us can do to reduce our own carbon footprint and to lobby those in power to bring about meaningful action.
Talking after the lecture, Tony explained how he’s been involved with setting up ACT!, an umbrella body of local campaign groups in the North East. By bringing together a myriad of organisations including local Friends of the Earth groups, Green Party branches, and representatives from the region’s universities, ACT! is helping to bring a unified voice to calls for our politicians and policy makers to act decisively. One of their first ‘acts’ was to organise a climate march last year in Newcastle, but they have bigger plans for this Sunday.
With help from Avaaz, ACT! have been planning a climate march bigger than any the region has seen to date. Tony and his colleagues are encouraging as many people as possible to join the event. The purpose of the march is to encourage local governments in the region to give greater priority to climate policies despite the effects of austerity and cuts in their budgets. It will also contribute to the global campaign to mandate our representatives in Paris to reach an ambitious and legally-binding deal that will make drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
I asked Tony whether the march on Sunday can really make a difference. ‘It will be one of more than 2,000 similar events in more than 150 countries on the same weekend,’ he says.It will be hard for politicians to ignore such a global expression of indignation and pressure to act. ‘It will be hard for politicians to ignore such a global expression of indignation and pressure to act. Successive negotiations have, largely, failed. This one must succeed.’ The organisers are determined that the climate march will be family friendly and they’re encouraging parents to bring their children along, with kids activities and face painting planned. Echoing the start of his journey back in 2013, Tony stresses the important role that young people have to play in this debate. “They must hold us to account for the toxic inheritance we have left them.”
On Sunday 29th November, the Newcastle Climate March event will begin in Princess Square, NE1 8ER, at 1.30pm with face-painting and placard-making (under cover) for young people. Participants are requested to wear something green, to be prepared for dodgy weather, and to follow the instructions of the marshalls. Full details can be found on the ACT! website.