More than 600,000 people from 175 countries – including 130,000 people in Australia – took to the streets over the weekend as part of the People’s Climate March. The protestors called for stronger climate change action ahead of the upcoming UN climate change summit in Paris.
Melbourne led the way with the biggest turnout globally. An estimated 60,000 people marched from the State Library of Victoria to Parliament House. This was nearly double last year’s attendance and made it the largest climate change mobilisation in Australian history.
Prior to the march, members of different faith communities gathered outside Wesley Uniting Church for an interfaith ‘farewell to coal’ service. The Commission for Mission’s Justice and International Mission (JIM) and Uniting Through Faiths units helped support and coordinate the interfaith contingent at the march.
The ceremony began with a speech by Rev Alexandra Sangster, minister of Fairfield Uniting Church.
“We have come to say goodbye to the old ways and welcome the new,” she said.
“We have come to say farewell to coal. The time has come to let it rest in peace.”
Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black, founding president of Greenfaith Australia, said it is a time of thanksgiving and farewell.
“There is a time for digging deep and a time for land to rest,” he said.
“There is a time for using fossil fuels and a time for embracing a new dawn.”
Sheikh Muammer Guler spoke about the importance of replenishing the Earth and renewing life. “We farewell coal’s damage to our Pacific neighbours,” he said “We farewell its damage to human health.”
Outside the State Library, speakers urged the crowd to make their voices heard and continue fighting for a cleaner and more sustainable world. One of the speakers was Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez from Honduras. Cardinal Rodriguez attended the climate change summits in Copenhagen and Durban and spoke about his disappointment at the lack of action by government leaders.
“This time is the most decisive summit that will take place in Paris. It cannot be a failure anymore,” he said. “We received a garden. We cannot deliver a desert.”
Amelia Telford, National Director of the Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network, said the fight for climate justice is intrinsically linked with the rights of Indigenous Australians.
“As a young Aboriginal woman, I believe this is a great opportunity for our movements to come together,” she told the crowd.
“In order to build just solutions, we need to see that the fight to stop the forced closure of Indigenous communities goes hand-in-hand with solving climate change.”
Ms Telford highlighted the environmental and cultural damage done by mining companies who dig up Indigenous land and called for greater engagement with Indigenous communities in combating climate change.
“Climate change challenges life as we know it. The way we deal with it determines how we live, where we live and if we live,” she said.
“By building a movement with justice at its core, we can build a world where every community can live and thrive, not just survive.”
The march ended outside Parliament House with a minute’s silence for all those affected by climate change. The crowd then joined together for a rendition of Paul Kelly’s From Little Things Big Things Grow.
Marches also took place in Sydney, Brisbane, Hobart, Perth, Canberra and many regional towns throughout Australia. In total, more than 2400 marches took place over the weekend.