Over 150,000 people marched on Saturday (20 October 2012) in London, Glasgow and Belfast for alternatives to the UK Government’s cuts agenda.
The marches, organised by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), were highly successful as disabled people, unemployed workers, trade unionists, civil society organisations, environmentalists, faith groups, young people and other members of the public came together to demand for ‘A Future That Works’.
Climate activists joined together in the climate block under the banner ‘Against Austerity; For Climate Justice. For A Future That Doesn’t Cost The Earth’. This block represented over 20 organisations raising the crucial question of tackling climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions as part of ‘A Future That Works’. On the day, climate activists met outside St Paul’s Cathedral for a short event including talks and performances. George Barda spoke, on behalf of the Alliance, on the need for a massive shift in policy to reduce carbon emissions and provide the millions of decent, sustainable jobs we need.
The new SHIFT campaign unveiled it’s banner for the first time and marched to Blackfriars bridge with the climate block to join the main march. The atmosphere was electric with drums, steel bands and dancers raising a massive amount of awareness amongst the general public and attracting bystanders to the march. The SHIFT campaign received a huge amount of attention thanks to our two dogs, Ruby and Betty, who highlighted the massive support for the campaign amongst non-human life forms. After 4 hours the SHIFT banner finally reached Hyde Park and the march culminated in a huge range of speakers organised by the TUC.
Unfortunately very few speakers made this connection between revitalising the economy and combating climate change, a notable exception being Kumi Naidoo from GreenPeace and Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party of England and Wales. Natalie accused the Government of making “economically illiterate cuts” and told fellow marchers: “We must invest in decent homes, renewable energy, public services, public transport and the infrastructure we need to bring manufacturing back to Britain. We must also restore food production systems within this country. All of these things are urgent, and need investment and planning to deliver.”
It remains that the TUC leaders made very little reference to climate change, and to ‘green jobs’. Despite some of the excellent work that is being done there is still a vast gap between trade unionists, battling austerity, and ‘green’ activists. It is precisely this gap that the Alliance for Jobs and Climate is trying to address.