Over 500 Atlantans March For Climate Justice In Lead Up To Paris Negotiations
Photograph by Steve Eberhardt.
(APN) ATLANTA — Before world leaders began critical climate negotiations in Paris, France, on November 30, 2015, Atlantans joined more than half a million people worldwide who rallied to demand a stop to global warming.
On Sunday, November 29, 2015, 550 people marched from a park in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights (NCCHR) as part the largest global day of action addressing climate change in history.
“This is the most significant moment for establishing an international agreement on reducing carbon emissions,” Ian Karra, a Sierra Club organizer, told Atlanta Progressive News.
The Sierra Club was among several groups that planned the march, including Environment Georgia, Citizen’s Climate Lobby, and the Emory Graduate Sustainability Group.
The Paris climate conference is known as COP21, short for the Twenty-First Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
COP 21 brings together government officials and delegates from 195 countries to forge a plan to prevent the global average temperature from increasing more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
That’s the threshold after which extreme weather events will likely cause widespread animal and plant extinction.
The global average temperature has already risen 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit since the Industrial Revolution.
“This the year that we really need to see action in the form of a binding international agreement,” Karra said.
Previous UN climate negotiations have yielded little in the way of drastically curtailing climate change. But many see COP21 as a turning point, in part because of an agreement made last year between China and the United States––the world’s two largest polluters––to significantly curb carbon emissions by 2030.
“The COP talks in Paris are a pivotal moment in this fight against climate change,” Colleen McLoughlin, an Environment Georgia organizer, said in a press statement.
“This march is about showing our support for strong climate action once and for all,” she said.
Speakers at the march called on Georgia Power to shift from fossil fuels to solar and other renewable energy sources. According to Environment Georgia, coal still accounts for 32 percent of the power company’s energy mix.
Georgians are already feeling the impact of climate change. McLoughlin pointed out that earlier this year coastal flooding damaged many homes and businesses and left the only route to Tybee Island impassable.
City of Atlanta Sustainability Director Stephanie Stuckey Benfield spoke at the rally, highlighting local climate change solutions.
As Atlanta Progressive News previously reported, Benfield and Mayor Kasim Reed recently announced a plan to install solar panels on 28 municipal buildings. The plan will reduce the city’s carbon dioxide emissions by 159 megatons and save 2.6 billion gallons of water through the year 2030.
Mayor Reed is participating in COP21 with a delegation of twelve U.S. mayors.
Other local delegates include Atlanta students who are participating in a Sierra Club delegation, as well as a delegation of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Climate Change Consortium.
And throughout the South, delegations have departed to represent their communities in Paris.
On the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, APN reported on the organizing efforts of Gulf South Rising, a collective that grew out of Climate Justice Assemblies held throughout the Gulf Coast region.
Now members of Gulf South Rising are in Paris, bringing the perspectives of indigenous people threatened by coastal subsidence, Vietnamese fisherpeople impacted by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and New Orleanians who have yet to fully recovery from Hurricane Katrina.
Lauren Reef, a member of Emory’s Graduate Sustainability Group, who helped plan the Atlanta march, told APN that the event’s success shows that more and more people are showing concern for climate change.
“I’m not an activist. This was the first march I’ve ever been to,” Reef said, adding that she believes “climate change is being taken more seriously at a community level.”
Part of the reason, she said, is a growing awareness of how the climate crisis connects to other social justice issues. Civil rights veterans like Dr. Gerald Durley spoke at the march, and articulated those connections.
“Climate change has a disproportionate impact on low-income individuals. Having speakers from the Civil Rights Movement and listening to them talk about social justice and climate justice in the same breath brings a lot more credence to the movement,” Reef said.