NEW YORK, New York, September 21, 2014 (ENS) – The People’s Climate March Sunday drew an estimated 310,000 people to fill New York City streets with calls to world leaders for meaningful, immediate action to stop raising Earth’s temperature before we all are caught in an irreversible climate catastrophe.

The massive march, echoed by some 2,700 similar events around the world, heralded UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Climate Summit that opens at UN Headquarters in New York on Tuesday. More than 120 heads of state and government as well as business leaders are expected to pledge actions to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, right in blue cap, at the People’s Climate March, Sept. 21, 2014. (Photo by Mark Garten courtesy UN)

After walking with the demonstrators on the People’s Climate March Secretary-General Ban told reporters the world needs to “galvanize our action” and harness the people’s “power to change.”

The secretary-general said there is “no “Plan B” for climate action as there is “no Planet B.”

“Climate change is a defining issue of our time,” Ban declared. “There is no time to lose. If we do not take action now we will have to pay much more.”

He expects world leaders to offer initiatives at the summit that will build toward a global legally-binding climate agreement to be reached in Paris,
France next year.

The UN chief joined the march with the New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the French sustainable development minister Ségolène Royal.

Mayor de Blasio announced New York City’s commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent over 2005 levels by 2050, starting by retrofitting all of New York’s major public buildings over the next 10 years and partnering with businesses to reduce emissions in privately owned buildings.

“Climate change is an existential threat to New Yorkers and our planet. Acting now is nothing short of a moral imperative,” said Mayor de Blasio. “New York City must continue to set the pace and provide the bold leadership that’s needed – and becoming the world’s largest city to commit to an 80 percent reduction in emissions by 2050 is central to that commitment.”

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From left, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon link arms on the People’s Climate March (Photo courtesy Office of Mayor de Blasio)

Chanting slogans and playing music, the marchers created a carnival atmosphere as they took over Manhattan’s West Side. Groups of indigenous people took part, many creative protest T-shirts were on view. One banner in the shape of a road sign warned “Climate Crisis Ahead.”

Celebrity marchers included former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, whose book and film “An Inconvenient Truth” counded some of the earliest climate warnings. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio, flanked by indigenous leaders, held a banner reading “Respect Aboriginal and Treaty rights, Shut Down the Tar Sands, No Keystone XL Pipeline.”

Actor Mark Ruffalo told reporters, “I’m marching as a representative of the thousands and thousands of people asking for change.”

Actor Edward Norton, musician Sting, and actress and author Evangeline Lilly were part of the marching crowd.

The march was organized by 1,572 organizations, including environmental, faith, indigenous, labor, justice and youth groups.

More than a million flyers about the march were handed out across New York City over the past five days. Hundreds of volunteers canvassed subway stations, and 496 buses arrived from nearly all 50 states.

The People’s Climate March website states its mission, “We’ll take to the streets to demand the world we know is within our reach: a world with an economy that works for people and the planet; a world safe from the ravages of climate change; a world with good jobs, clean air and water, and healthy communities.”

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Many marchers held signs against hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas extraction (Photo by Sharon Guynup)

The march in New York City is the largest of 2,704 People’s Climate rallies in 162 countries around the world, from New Delhi to Melbourne to Johannesburg – a worldwide campaign to persuade global leaders to act quickly and decisively.

Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke blogged, “Today I joined the People’s Climate March—the biggest rally for climate action on record. It was exhilarating to be part of this historic event. I will never forget the moment I turned the corner at Columbus Circle and saw a sea of people stretching for miles in each direction. More than 310,000 of us came together in the streets of New York City to raise our voices and demand world leaders act on climate.”

The National Nurses Union joined with activists in calling for a Robin Hood tax on Wall Street speculation that would set a small tax on trades of stocks, bonds, dividends and other financial transactions that could generate billions to combat the climate crisis.

NNU Co-President Jean Ross said, “In my 40 years as a registered nurse, I’ve witnessed the devastating effects of environmental injustice on my patients. The climate crisis is a major threat to human health. It’s time to implement real solutions. The Robin Hood Tax is one of the most powerful ways to fund those solutions.”

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Never too young to campaign for climate action (Photo by WWF)

Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp said, “We are in the race of our lives against climate change. It already affects all of us – every person, in every country. It is having an impact on our health, our safety, our economy, our food supply, and those impacts will surely grow exponentially if we do not reduce climate pollution dramatically, starting now. And yet today’s march made me more optimistic than ever that we can meet this challenge.”

Ricken Patel, executive director of climate action group Avaaz which helped organize the march, said it was crucial for people to get out on the street “because there’s a huge gap between the action our survival requires … and the action our governments are willing to take on climate change. The street is where we close that gap.”

“We are rushing headlong into catastrophic tipping points in our climate system,” said Patel. “We need action fast to transition to a 100 percent clean energy economy.”

People from across the United States and Canada joined to march as a “Tar Sands Bloc” to oppose continued expansion of tar sands, which thay call “one of the dirtiest, most carbon-intensive fuel sources on the planet.”

Their message for President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and other world leaders is that “they will not stop fighting until they stop tar sands at the source.”

“Tar sands crude is a disaster for the climate, for clean air and water, and for communities at the source, along pipeline routes, and those living next to refineries and export terminals,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. “To protect the climate and our communities, President Obama must reject tar sands pipelines like Keystone XL and the Alberta Clipper.”

“Tar sands is exactly the kind of energy that is pushing the planet toward climate catastrophe,” said Valerie Love with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s long past time for President Obama to reject tar sands and other fossil fuel projects that only dig us deeper into the climate crisis.”

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The People’s Climate March in New York was the largest of more than 2700 similar events around the world (Photo credit unknown)

“It is scandalous that Canada’s Prime Minister is not attending this summit, but it’s not unexpected,” says Andrea Harden-Donahue, the Council of Canadians’ Energy and Climate Justice Campaigner. “Canada has become a climate criminal, from the muzzling of scientists to the slashing of environmental protections and rubber-stamping of fossil fuel infrastructure. That’s why it’s so important for Canadians to be present at this march, and it’s why Canadians are doing all we can stop pipeline projects like TransCanada’s Energy East, the biggest tar sands pipeline proposed. We care, and we demand action, for people and the planet.”

“Tens of thousands of young voters are coming to the People’s Climate March to say to President Obama that Keystone XL and any tar sands pipeline do not pass his climate test. He needs to stand with communities and indigenous peoples directly impacted by this dirty and dangerous industry and keep tar sands in the ground,” said Kendall Mackey, Tar Sands Campaign Coordinator for Energy Action Coalition. “The big and powerful movement we see at the People’s Climate March is fighting for a clean energy future for all, and we won’t stop until we stop tar sands at the source.”

Jane Kleeb, of Bold Nebraska, said, “Nebraskans take action when we see a problem. Carbon pollution in our state has been ignored too long by politicians. Citizens are calling on every level of government to take climate change seriously in order for the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers to continue to thrive. We march for action.”

Andy Pearson, of MN350, said, “Minnesota is fighting the expansion of Keystone-like pipelines in the ground while oil tank cars clog our railroads. Seven Enbridge pipelines full of Canadian tar sands crude and fracked North Dakota Bakken oil ooze over a million barrels a day across our state while Enbridge and the State Department cozily circumvent the Presidential Permit process. We demand President Obama keeps his State Department in check and applies the same climate test to the Enbridge Alberta Clipper and Line 3 in Minnesota as to Keystone XL: if it’s bad for the climate, it doesn’t get built.”

Many indigenous people, in New York for the Indigenous People’s Conference at the United Nations on Monday, marched today for climate action.

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Indigenous women declare their right to respect of their lands (Photo by Joseph Holmes)

Aldo Seoane, Shield the People Project, Rosebud Sioux Tribe, said, “Our tribal nations are together in stopping the Keystone XL pipeline. It is not in the best interest of our people or of the land. Working together with our non-native allies we will defeat the TransCanada tar sands pipeline. ‘No Tar Sands on Treaty Lands.’ The proposed route of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline crosses directly through Great Sioux Nation Treaty lands as defined by both the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie Treaties. The Tribes have yet to be properly be consulted on TransCanada’s Keystone project by government officials in accordance with federal law, and it opposes the construction of this and any other pipelines through its territory without its free, prior, and informed consent. We urge president Obama to say no to the pipeline.”

Eriel Deranger, communications director of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, said, “The expansion of Alberta’s Tar Sands in the Athabasca delta, one of the world’s last remaining fresh water deltas is not only psychotic it’s unjust and unacceptable. The ACFN have drawn a line in the sand and will do whatever it takes to protect our land, our people, our rights, and our future generations to come in solidarity with all social movements converging in at the Peoples Climate March in NYC. We are at a pivotal moment in history, we can choose to let governments and industry destroy this planet for future generations, or we can stand together and say enough is enough. Alberta’s Tar Sands are out of control. If we don’t stop it at the source, we are green lighting the destruction of my people’s lands and rights.”

Mary Humphries, lead strategist of ForestEthics, said, “I need to know my grandchildren will experience the grandeur of the natural world the way I do. And while governments and corporations fail to act, we are marching today because we can power our world with clean energy, we can stop carbon pollution and leave dirty coal and oil in the ground.”

Crystal Lameman, member of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Treaty No.6, said, “We are travelling to New York from our communities in Alberta to unite with Indigenous peoples across North America and the world, to join our allies fighting tar sands expansion and remind our host country that importing tar sands oil has destructive repercussions on thousands of lives and millions of hectares. We are coming from frontline communities with one clear message, “Stop tar sands at the source.”

Ellen Gabreil, Kanehsatà:ke Mohawk Community Member, said, “The safety record of resource extraction industries is dismal and does not reassure this generation that there will be a clean and secure environment in which to live. Our ancestors teach us that we must always be mindful that the work we do today will affect seven generations from now. The time is now to protect the quality of life of future generations and Mother Earth against irresponsible resource extraction.”

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