By HOLDEN VANDERVEER
An estimated 100,000 people, including over 55 University of Mary Washington students, will gather in New York City for the People’s Climate March this Sunday, Sept. 21 in preparation for next year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21). World leaders are meeting in New York next week for a preparatory summit.
The preparatory meeting, which is hosted by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, will be held on Sept. 23 with the hopes of allowing world leaders to share their thoughts and freely discuss strategies for reducing global warming. These plans will then be brought to France in 2015 for the more formal and binding COP21 conference.
The trip is being endorsed by UMW’s Ecology Club, DivestUMW and the office of sustainability.
Though the summit is restricted to world political and economic leaders, the citizens of the planet want to have their say too.
“I think, metaphorically, we are attending that summit by taking to the streets and demanding that our politicians make our voices heard,” senior philosophy major and Eco-Reps member Zakaria Kronemer said.
Though leaders will discuss strategy at this month’s summit, no decisions will be formally binding until the COP21.
“Nothing is coming out of this single event that going to cause that much change,” Kronemer said. “What it will do is put world leaders on the right track for COP21 so that they can make the decisions that will fight climate change and begin investing into our future very tactfully.”
Unlike past conferences, which have encouraged leaders to think about change and raise awareness, this preparatory meeting is hoping to go a step further and urge individual countries to take concrete action. According to the U.N., Ban Ki-moon has personally asked world leaders to bring in plans of action on issues such as how to reduce emissions.
“Its not just about the polar bears and the trees, it’s about the people now. This is an injustice,” senior geography major and environmental sustainability minor Alice Redhead said. “Every facet of society is going to need to change.”
The current global agreement on climate change is set to expire in 2020, which is why the events of the upcoming COP21 are considered crucial to strategizing and implementing a new global agreement.
“In the past, most of the agreements that have been made have been pledges. Pledges don’t entail that the world leaders have to actually take action, it’s more of a promise,” Kronemer said.
Kronemer provided the example of a past agreement made about keeping the planet’s temperature from rising by two degrees Celsius that world leaders have failed to honor.
However, this could all change at the COP21 meeting, where leaders will form a legally binding agreement on a course of action for dealing with climate change. Until then, political representatives such as President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping of China, as well as major business leaders, are going to New York to start shaping the direction of COP21.
“People are finally starting to see that climate change is more than just an environmental problem, it’s a social justice issue,” Redhead said. “The consequences of climate change are going to hurt communities that are systematically oppressed. People who don’t have the money and power to remove themselves from these situations are the ones hit first and hardest.”
The trip has the support of Vice President of Student Affairs Doug Searcy.
“In my role as a student advocate and person who supports the student experience, I always encourage students to voice their opinion and share their perspective,” Searcy said. “Activism is a healthy and important part of our democratic process. In addition, political involvement supports student learning and growth.”
Despite the issues at hand, students and other various leaders remain hopeful for a change.
“The solutions are there. We have the knowledge and the ability and technology for clean energy and new solutions. It’s not out of reach. It’s right around the corner,” Redhead said.