Around 150 people walked from Baildon to City Park via Shipley on Friday to highlight the urgency of tackling climate change.
The walk was backed by Bradford Cathedral, Friends of the Earth, Global Justice Now, Hope Rising United People’s Movement, Bradford Trades Council and many other organisations.
On arrival at City Park, the walkers were greeted by the Peace Artistes, a vibrant local street band. The walkers made a circuit of City Hall, led by the gigantic Cecil Green Arts puppets, to symbolise the importance of politicians taking strong action to address the climate emergency.
There was music from DJ Jerry Crawford from Collective Impact, food and speeches. One young speaker said: “Three years ago I made a speech about the need for our politicians to act on the climate emergency.
“I don’t want to be here again. I want to see action!”
Mollie Somerville from Global Justice Bradford said: “People walking together sends a powerful message calling for action.
“There is a need to overcome injustice, widespread poverty and planetary collapse. It can be done if governments act now.”
The walkers were calling on the West Yorkshire Pension Fund (WYPF) to sell its investments in oil and gas companies, both to protect members’ and employers’ money from stranded assets as the world transitions to a low carbon economy and to highlight the power local government pension funds have to invest in the solutions for a safe and healthy future.
“This action will save Bradford Council money. It’s brilliant that this week Wakefield Labour group joined the call for WYPF to divest from fossil fuels, as Leeds Labour group did earlier this year, and Calderdale council in July formally asked WYPF to divest from fossil fuels over a 3 year period, reinvesting in green alternatives.” Said Jane Thewlis from Fossil Free West Yorkshire.
“Bradford is an innovative city full of creative leaders. The good news is that a low carbon Bradford is one that is healthier and safer for everyone now as well as in the future. This is an opportunity to improve life expectancy and health here in Bradford.
“It has been estimated that air particulate pollution killed 191 people in Bradford in one year. The world-renowned Born in Bradford project says that air pollution seems to be toxic to every organ in our bodies.
“If we invest in public and active transport and minimise private vehicle and air travel we will improve our health now and protect ourselves from the climate crisis. In addition, if we insulate homes we will cut fuel poverty, improve health and cut carbon emissions,” said Ruth Simpson.
The walk gained funding from the GMB union. Joe Wheatley from the union’s Green New Deal network said: “The climate crisis is an opportunity to improve most people’s livelihoods, because it needs a switch from carbon-intensive transport and jobs to healthy, productive and caring work, losing no jobs.”
The walk comes only two months before the intergovernmental meeting in Glasgow, COP26, that will review measures to curb global warming. The organisers of the Bradford walk are keen that there are international agreements and local decisions that not only proclaim the need to avert global warming but agree that emergency measures that will make sure of it.
The organisers believe Bradford needs net-zero carbon emissions by 2030, following the advice from the world’s climate scientists in August’s Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change report which says “immediate, rapid and largescale cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are needed or limiting global warming to 1.5 or even 2 degrees will be out of reach”.
“This would mean the council deciding to stop the expansion of Leeds Bradford airport and of big roads as these will increase greenhouse gas emissions when we need to decrease them,” said Manny McKenzie.
Walkers welcomed councillors Richard Dunbar (Labour, Thornton, Allerton and Sandy Lane), and Marcus Dearden (Labour, Bingley) who attended the event.
Mike de Villiers of Baildon & Shipley Friends of the Earth, said: “We are showing how positive we feel about Bradford, the world and its future, if we act to prevent this human-made global warming”