By Howard Garde, Riverside’s energy project manager.
I’ve been asked to share my experience of cycling to Paris to take part in a rally against climate change ahead of this year’s United Nations Summit. During a week when colleagues and customers in Cumbria and the North West are still struggling with the devastating consequences of record breaking rainfall, it seems the perfect time to talk about climate change and why I’m committed to campaigning for an agreement to limit global warming.
The seed of the idea of a bike ride to Paris started several months ago when the plans to stage a mass rally in advance of the UN Climate Change Summit were announced.
It was important for me to be in Paris to demonstrate to the politicians that we really need a meaningful agreement on climate change.
My understanding of the implications of climate change has developed through my work at Riverside. Improving energy efficiency of the homes we rent, reducing the amount our customers spend on heating and reducing carbon emissions are all within my remit.
It was important for me to be in Paris to demonstrate to the politicians that we really need a meaningful agreement on climate change. We need to mitigate against pending catastrophic global events, including food and water shortage, flooded coastal and river areas, such as we witnessed very close to home last week, as well as mass migration, to name just a few.
After months of planning, I set off from Liverpool with my friend, Jon Moorhouse, cycling for three days to arrive in Paris on Saturday afternoon.
Although the terrorist atrocity meant that the Paris authorities felt the security risk to a mass rally of 200,000 people was too great, we made our way to the Place de la Republique on Sunday, where we joined a human chain that ran the route of the proposed march.
Eleven thousand pairs of shoes were left in the Place to represent the people who had planned to march, including those donated by Vivienne Westwood, Ban Ki Moon and the pope.
The people we spoke to were genuinely pleased that we had made the effort to attend, as visitor numbers had fallen dramatically since the terrorist attack. We explained that although our original aim was focused on the climate change rally, under the circumstance we felt it was important to show solidarity.
As a mark of respect we visited the Bataclan theatre, where 129 people lost their lives and left a candle at the street memorial nearby. There were many, many touching notes left for loved ones who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
We spent a very pleasant Sunday evening walking along the banks of the Seine, viewing the beauty of the city, as dusk fell from the summit of the Eifel Tower.
Sadly time constraints meant we couldn’t cycle the return trip back to Liverpool and we picked up the train early on Monday morning.
It was a fantastic trip – and the good news is that the climate change summit has reached a historic, durable and ambitious agreement to limit emissions to relatively safe levels to keep temperature increase below two degrees.