A Political Challenge: Get to Work on Climate Solutions

Washington, DC – Just weeks before elections in the United States and climate talks at the United Nations, citizens from Afghanistan to West Virginia joined 350.org’s “10/10/10 Global Work Party” to issue a unified demand that politicians stop dragging their feet and get to work on climate solutions.

Leading by example, citizens in 188 countries joined more than 7,000 climate “work parties” over the weekend to get to work installing solar panels, weatherizing homes, planting trees, and then calling politicians to ask a simple question, “We’re getting to work, what about you?”

“The fossil fuel industry may have thought that the collapse of the Copenhagen talks and its victory in the U.S. Congress were the final word—that people would give up in discouragement,” said acclaimed environmental writer and 350.org founder Bill McKibben.  “The turnout today—at what is almost certainly the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history—demonstrates that people are fed up with the inaction of their leaders and ready to take matters into their own hands. Game on.”

In the days surrounding the work party, U.S. President Barack Obama, Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed, and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn all committed to install solar on their official residences. Mexico City and Parisian Mayors committed to cut their city’s emissions 10% over the next year. Dozens of politicians, from US Senators to the President of the Timor-Leste Parliament joined rallies.

10/10/10 Global Work Party highlights include:

  • In Instanbul, Turkey, 7,000 marched for climate action
  • In China, 30,000 students joined over 300 events across the country
  • In Bangladesh, citizens demonstrated knee deep in the flood waters that are affecting hundreds of thousands of people
  • In Hamadan, Iran, hundreds of students attended an environmental symposium
  • In Afghanistan, groups of students planted trees in a valley outside Kabul
  • In South Africa, a local business installed solar panels on the roof of an orphanage
  • In the United States, there were over 2,000 rallies with events in all 50 states, including 400 clean energy rallies in California

A diverse array of political voices including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres, White House official Jon Carson, and President of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed endorsed the 10/10/10 Global Work Party as a sign of important momentum for climate action.

“It’s time for us to roll up our sleeves and get to work on building the clean energy future that will generate economic opportunity and provide a better, safer, healthier world for our children,” said United Nations Secretary Ban Ki-moon. “On October 10, I encourage everyone to do his or her part to be part of the solution to the climate challenge.”

Speaking from the climate meetings in Tianjin, China, UN Climate Chief Christina Figueres said: “I congratulate you on your work and I want to offer my personal support to the Global Work Party. When citizens are inspired to take action, it is easier for governments to initiate real climate change action.”

Jon Carson, the chief of staff for President Obama’s Council on Environmental Quality, told hundreds of 350.org organizers in a conference call Saturday night in Washington that, “The number one lesson we learned in the Obama campaign is that people respond to an effort that is getting something done. Tangible change in people’s back yards is what brings more people to the fold. That’s what you guys are doing tomorrow and that’s what it’s going to take to grow this movement.”

President Nasheed, who joined the work parties by helping install solar panels on his roof in the Maldives, told 350.org supporters around the world, “As President of one of the world’s most climate vulnerable countries, I want to thank you for your tireless work and offer my wholehearted support for the Global Work Party on 10/10/10. For the Maldives, 350 is more than just a number: it is a passport to survival for our entire nation.”

Photos form the weekend’s events are stunning in their diversity and juxtaposition: cub scouts in West Virginia and young men in Afghanistan; biology students in Iran and cyclists in Israel; flood victims in Bangladesh and high school girls in Beverly Hills; the Governor of Illinois and orphans in Indonesia.

The Global Work Party came together online through websites, social networks, and a largely volunteer team around the world. “We’ve still got people hunched over laptops around the world today sending out emails, Skyping organizers, and trying to make sure the website doesn’t crash,” said Jamie Henn, 350.org co-founder.

McKibben said that the global nature of the work parties made them particularly heartening: “The size and spread of today’s events surprised even those of us organizing them. They demonstrate a continuing—a growing—hunger for real action on the most desperate problem the planet faces. This has been the warmest year on record, scientists tell us. Now we’re starting to turn up the political temperature too.”

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