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Outpouring of support for the People’s Climate March

Photo: Tom Hartney

The People’s Climate March attracted hundreds of thousands of people across the world in support of action on climate change. With an estimated 400,000 people in attendance in New York City alone, it’s hoped this outpouring of support will turn climate change into a first-tier political issue.

For Oxfam, and for hundreds of millions of people around the world, climate change is about food. It is about the ability of communities to feed themselves. Put simply — a hot world is a hungry world. Extreme weather, unpredictable rains, and rising seas, are making it harder for people to grow and buy enough food to eat.

We know this from the science. But we also know this from the heartbreaking stories from communities on the front line. People like our closest neighbours in the Pacific, who have contributed almost nothing to the problem of climate change, yet are being hit first and hardest by its impacts.

We were there in the Philippines, where just under a year ago, Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest tropical storm ever recorded at landfall, destroyed fishing boats, rice crops, coconut trees, and more, affecting over 11 million Filipinos. Over 6,000 people died.

Let’s be frank. A decision by a rich country like Australia to roll back its climate policies and flout its international obligations is a decision to inflict still greater harm on some of the world’s poorest peoples.

We are not afraid to call it what it is.

The march was about hope. About showing that the power of the people is greater than the people in power. About shining a light on the positive action taking place around the world.

And as Oxfam, we also know that from the Pacific to the Himalayas to Africa, people are working with whatever means they have. They are leapfrogging the dirty technologies of the past and building sustainable economies of the future. They are learning how to cope with impacts that can no longer be avoided. And they are working with courage to hold all decision makers to account.

Take our friends from 350 Pacific, who in a few weeks will arrive in Australia to speak truth to power and to blockade the world’s largest coal port. In their words they are ‘not drowning, they are fighting’. In time, nothing, not even the powerful fossil fuel industry, can stand up against the passion and determination of the people.

For now, our Government may have decided to swim against the tide. But we all know that cannot last, that momentum is building, the call for climate justice is getting louder, developing countries are not waiting for the rich world to get its house in order.

The message is clear – if the world’s poorest countries, can confront the climate challenge, then so can Australia. There is nothing standing between us and a sustainable future for all, except vested interests and a lack of political will. It’s up to us to build the future, to stand in solidarity with those who are at greatest risk and are fighting for their survival.

We are part of a truly global movement. An unstoppable force from Melbourne to New York: Delhi to Rio. Let’s remember that in a little over a year, governments will sit down to hammer out a new global climate agreement. Our challenge is to build a movement so big, so united that our leaders are forced to put aside their differences and act with courage and vision.

Let’s hold this moment in our hearts and steadily, with grit and determination build the movement that will bend the course of history. Together we are powerful. Together we will win.