After representatives from 195 countries at the United Nations Climate Change Conference on Saturday pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, about 840 protesters took to the streets of Ann Arbor to promote the importance of efforts to counteract climate change.
The march was organized by several environmentally focused student groups in coordination with a series of marches held around the world and promoted by the climate change activist group 350.org.
Protesters walked through Ann Arbor holding signs and chanting for more than an hour before arriving at the Diag for a rally.
LSA junior Alex Kendig, president of Students for Clean Energy and an organizer of the march, said the group wanted to create an opportunity for the community to show their support for efforts to curb climate change.
“We saw an issue that needed action, but we didn’t see any opportunities to act,” he said. “We wanted to form a march where people could get involved and show they’re on board with this issue.”
The rally drew speakers including U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D–Dearborn), Yousef Rabhi, a member of the county commissioner and a candidate for the state legislature, and a few University students.
In her speech, Dingell talked about the upcoming budget legislation Congress will soon review. She said it is important that there are no clauses in the budget that prevent the government from taking action on climate change.
“You all need to make sure there are no bills or parts put into that bill that don’t let the United States address climate change,” she said. “You need to spread out across the country and make sure we walk, we talk.”
Rabhi said the way to achieve real input in climate change legislation is by mobilizing young voters.
“This struggle will be won at the ballot box,” he said. “When we vote, we win. When we knock on doors, we win. When we go to the streets and protest, we win. We will win.”
Meghan O’Neill, a high school student in Washtenaw County, said she joined the march because she thought it was key for people to show their support.
“I think it’s really important to get involved in this because if we don’t take action, who else is going to?” she said. “We have to make a change.”
The demonstration followed the conclusion of the climate talks in Paris, where countries set a target of keeping the global temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius, with each country submitting specific goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The University sent a delegation of students and faculty to the conference where they were able to observe the negotiations.
Rackham student Mayank Vikas, one of the students on the delegation, said the deal is not as comprehensive as it could be, but he hopes it will lead to more progress in the future.
“I’m cautiously optimistic this deal will lead to something bigger and better,” Vikas said. “It’s a good start, but I don’t think the deal is ambitious enough to actually match the aspirations that its text reflects.”
Information and History Prof. Paul Edwards, who also attended the conference, said he hopes the talks serve as a motivating force for the University to take more action against climate change.
“We should be leading the way,” he said. “If we are really the leaders and the best we should be showing the rest of the world how it’s done.”