A Proper Yorkshire Welcome

October 17, 2021

The sun shone on October 15th in more ways than one!

Wakefield gathered in the sun on Friday, October 15th, assembling on the Cathedral Steps at noon, welcoming Spanish Climate Activists who are walking to the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow and showing their commitment to climate action by making demands of world leaders at COP26 in Glasgow..

Can we really say that Wakefield gathered?  The Mayor, the Bishop, Wakefield College, schools, Trade Unions and the Trades Council, Just Transition Wakefield and members of the public.  The crowd, the Wakefield Walkers and the organising committee was truly multicultural.  Yes, this was a properly representative gathering.  Yes, we can say that Wakefield gathered.

Just Transition Wakefield need to share some thanks: to Wakefield College for providing an amazing lunch for hungry walkers; to the Cathedral for their hospitality on their steps, to the Council and Cllr Austin the Mayor for their official welcome to the city.  And of course we have special thanks for our amazing speakers, but especially Amber from Stanley Grove and Eman from Next Generation.

You can watch Amber’s speech here.

After the rally, the walkers were fed before continuing their march to Leeds.  They were guided and accompanied all the way by local activists, as we sent them on their way knowing that another city on their route has cheered them and spread their message demanding global and climate justice.

You can see a film short by Red Shed TV about the event here.

Highlights and key messages.

For most people, the real highlight was 10 year old Amber, with the memorable line “What else can a ten year old do?”. 

Another highlight was the first outing of the Just Transition Wakefield Banner.  This has taken a while to produce because of Covid, but we owe special thanks to Donna for the design work, Jackie and Mel for the majority of the stitching, and Catherine for organising everything.  It’s next outing will be at the Global Mobilisation for COP26 at Millennium Square in Leeds on November 6th.  See here for details.

Our new banner as backdrop to the event
Our new banner as backdrop to the event

The event was MC’d by Stuart from Just Transition Wakefield.  He shared our collective key messages with the audience, including these highlights:

“I have to ask world leaders – when they look at the children in their own countries, just like we look at these amazing young people here – how can they continue to backslide, to delay and to dither, knowing that they are leaving a world of chaos, jeopardy and strife for all future generations?  We are shamed by them and need them to listen!”

Leading the march in

“The trade unions are so critical in making sure we have a Just Transition and that there is social justice and economic justice as we transition to a zero carbon economy.  We cannot accept the unjust transitions of the past, such as when the textile mills closed, when the mines closed and when the steel works closed.  It took decades after the mines closed for even crap, insecure, low wage jobs – we cannot allow this to happen again – the green economy MUST include all of us, and MUST share the benefits with everyone!”

Stuart made 8 demands of leaders:

1. World Leaders must cut greenhouse gas emissions quickly – in half by 2030 as a minimum.  This means no new gas, oil or coal.  Then it means phasing out existing fossil fuels as we get new fossil free technology scaled up – and forcing that scaling up of zero carbon tech.

2. Stop the Roads Programme.  This will release £27 billion and enable loads of work for road construction teams to repair roads to save fuel and damage, to redesign roads to integrate bus and cycle lanes, re-engineer junctions and to build new infrastructure for zero carbon vehicles – all without creating more traffic.

3. Cancel HS2 and reinvest in electrification of the existing rail network, accelerate regional rail to support regional economies.  There are so many good jobs in this.

4. Ban large scale biofuels like at Drax.  It is not green, it is not sustainable, it certainly isn’t zero carbon, and it is not affordable – £2 million a day in tax payers money to destroy forests all over the world makes no sense.  We are in an emergency and we must act like it!

5. Instead, we need to accelerate genuine and affordable renewables like wind and solar, invest in storage technology to fill the gaps, AND invest in the National Grid to cope with increased loads caused by electrification of the economy.    There are so many of good, green jobs here. 

6. We need a proper funding settlement for local authorities to lead local climate action – to support families and businesses to make the transition to zero carbon and to make sure that no region gets left behind.  We work with campaigners across the region, we know that Wakefield council is doing better than most, but it still has its hands tied with lack of cash, and external barriers imposed by central government and lack of policy.

7. We need a massive national training programme to train new entrants and retrain existing workers for the new green jobs.  These include retrofitting housing, installing heat pumps, nature restoration, and so many more.  This is the future for us and our children – we need our demands heard and met.

8. World Leaders must stop stealing from future generations and from the global south – we must have intergenerational justice and global justice as part of the global just transition – the global south is suffering far more than Europe and America – yet contribute least to climate emissions.  Madagascar is already experiencing drought caused by climate change, threatening millions with starvation and death.  We have seen drought, heat waves and floods across the global south, especially Africa and India.  Leaders must commit to the 100 billion dollars a year to the global south to adapt and transition to zero carbon.

Stuart finished by giving us all three actions to take away:

1. There is still time to write to your MP – they are debating the COP talks in parliament next week – they all need to know that you demand real action on the climate and nature. (see the template letter here)

2. Join us and a million others on Saturday Nov 6th.  In West Yorkshire we will be in Millennium Square in Leeds – this is a global day of climate action to send a huge message to world leaders – make sure that you are part of the movement to have your voice heard – pick up a leaflet, snap the poster on your phone, and head to Leeds on Saturday Nov 6th. (see the poster here)

3. Yes make changes in your own life, and push for change at work, but don’t do it alone – join a group, join a union, get involved with a community of others who can support you and encourage you.  This needs all of us to work together. (You can sign up to our mailing list at the bottom of the page.)

Stuart finished with the demand for change:

This matters like nothing else.  Covid, Brexit – these will be in the history books before you blink.  The Climate and Ecological Emergencies threaten all life on earth and are on a scale that is hardly imaginable.  We cannot play games with our children’s and grandchildren’s future, or with our own!    We demand change and we demand it now.

We really want to thank everyone who gave up their day on Friday and in advance to organise the event, but especially we want to thank “Marcha a Glasgow” who have given up weeks of their lives to make this trek and to bring their message and demands to the UK and to COP26.

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