Climate warriors march into the rain

It's a relief to watch the whole environmental movement getting on its feet just in time for Copenhagen. It's like the moment as a kid, when you're upset because someone's cutting down the tree on the corner, and your dad finally pulls himself out of his armchair and says: "Come on, then." Someone bigger is getting involved, too. Even if we're going to hell in a handcart, we're going together.

It would be nonsense to claim that it's only been the youngsters campaigning about this for the past few years. They have been the noisy ones, it's true, and at some point I think we should all genuflect in front of Plane Stupid, Climate Camp and Greenpeace for the way they dragged climate change into the news and forced us to talk about it. Imagine 2007 or 2008 without one of them throwing a tantrum outside Heathrow - how would the climate-change conversation ever have taken place?

But often it has felt as if the grown-ups just weren't joining in. Under Tony Blair, the government made soothing noises - "Not now, Bernard" - and did nothing. Blair's first two environment ministers, John Prescott and Margaret Beckett, clearly couldn't have cared less about the subject. David Miliband brought a kind of android engagement to the job and Hilary Benn seemed to care, but was feeble in a position that needs a bit of a bruiser. It is only with Ed Miliband in the post - not a bruiser, sure, but stubborn in that younger brother way - that we finally have an environment minister who seems to be ready to fight for the campaign.

The NGOs, too, have seemed pretty quiet at times, but they've been doing their behind-the-scenes thing. They gently nudge politicians, explain the complicated bits of the science and untie legislative knots, more than most of us realise. Friends of the Earth is a remorseless nudger (and more climate-change-obsessed than even the Climate Camp bunch - I once tried to make gentle non-environmental chit-chat with one member of staff and immediately hit a brick wall), and experts from WWF will actually be sitting at the negotiating tables at the Copenhagen summit.

All of them will be coming out for the Wave march the weekend before the negotiations in Copenhagen start, with more demos all over the world the following weekend. This is not the moment to dwell on where those marchers and NGOs have been these past few years, when the stoic Campaign against Climate Change turned out year after year in miserable December weather, including, in 2007, the most vicious horizontal rainstorm ever seen. It's also not the moment to worry about why it is so hard to get people out to support climate change (denial, intangibility of cause, someone else's problem: check, check, check). And let's not even think about the weather (no longer "severe", according to the Met Office, but still as switchback as the past couple of weeks).

Copenhagen is coming, and with it one of the most important balancing moments of our lives. So much hangs on this. It will be a relief to turn
out for the march, to see all those thousands of others. It will be good to see the grown-ups out on the streets, too.

This article first appeared in the 07 December 2009 issue of the New Statesman, Boy George