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Around 350 people gathered in Writers’ Square, Belfast this afternoon as part of a Global Day of Action on climate change. Representatives of international development charities, green groups, churches and trade unions used bells, drums and their voices to urge world leaders, meeting for crunch UN climate talks tomorrow, to wake up to the urgency of climate change. 

 

The rally, Northern Ireland’s biggest ever protest on climate change, was one of hundreds of marches and protests taking place from Sao Paulo to New Delhi on the eve of the United Nations climate change talks in Paris. Environment Minister Mark H Durkan will attend the talks as part of the UK delegation and the Northern Ireland Assembly will debate the issue on Monday 30 November, in a motion tabled by Environment Committee chair Anna Lo MLA. 

 

Canon of St Anne’s Cathedral, Rev. Michael Parker, the keynote speaker at an ecumenical service of prayer and reflection held earlier this afternoon, said: “We have a moral obligation to care for the world and all of its people. We have been reminded today that climate change is a global crisis, but it is also affecting our habitats and our way of life here in Northern Ireland. Climate change threatens all we hold dear and the message from today’s service and rally is we must join together as churches, workers, activists and leaders to respond now.”

 

Oxfam Ireland’s Campaigns and Advocacy Executive, Christine McCartney, who chairs the Coalition of Aid and Development Agencies in Northern Ireland, said: “Climate change is already hitting the world’s poorest communities first and worst, making people more vulnerable to extreme weather and making it harder to feed their families. It is fantastic to see so many people from Northern Ireland come out to stand shoulder to shoulder with people around the world demanding action on climate change ahead of tomorrow’s UN talks.”

 

As well as music from Beyond Skin, the rally heard from a wide range of people concerned about climate change, including surfer Dan Lavery, farmer Frank Ellison and Catherine Bertrand of charity Butterfly Conservation.

 

Rally participants also handed over symbols of what’s at stake if we fail to tackle climate change to be delivered to Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan, ahead of his participation in the Paris climate talks.

 

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said: “I welcome the initiative of the group of charities and green groups in organising this People’s Climate Rally. It is our moral responsibility to protect the poorest and most vulnerable groups and regions from the dangers of climate change and it is critical that we take action now.

 

“When I am at the annual Conference of Parties in Paris I will make it clear that we should be striving to secure an ambitious international agreement, and that the North of Ireland will play its full part in contributing to the agreed emission reduction targets. 

 

“I am committed to the introduction of Climate Change Legislation in the North.  I intend to issue, in the near future, a discussion paper to stakeholders seeking their views on proposals for a NI Climate Change Act.”

 

Notes

 

1. The People’s Climate Rally in Belfast is being organised by a group of organisations working on climate change, including Christian Aid, Friends of the Earth, NIPSA, Northern Ireland Environment Link, Oxfam Ireland, Queen’s University Students Union and Trócaire.

 

2. People’s Climate events are taking place in cities all over the world including Belfast, Dublin and Cork. More information about the events globally is available here: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/event/globalclimatemarch

For further information, please contact Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland on 028 9023 3488.

 

Published by Friends of the Earth Ltd