COP21: Thousands join London climate change march

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Media captionClaire Marshall reports from the midst of London march

Campaigners in central London have marched to demand that global leaders take urgent action to tackle climate change.

The event was the largest of about 2,500 demonstrations taking place around the world ahead of a critical UN climate summit in Paris.

Organisers said about 50,000 people were on the route from Hyde Park to Whitehall.

Cities including Edinburgh, Bristol and Belfast hosted other UK marches.

The Paris conference, known as COP21, starts on Monday and will try to craft a long-term deal to limit carbon emissions.

The gathering of 147 heads of state and government is set to be far bigger than the 115 or so who came to Copenhagen in 2009, the last time the world came close to agreeing a long-term deal on climate change.

COP21: Marches on eve of summit

'Tipping point'

The London march began at Park Lane at 13:00 GMT and took campaigners past the Houses of Parliament to a rally at Millbank.

Image caption Actress Emma Thompson was among those attending

Campaigners from groups such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Oxfam, ActionAid and the World Wildlife Fund marched alongside people from around the UK such as a group protesting against fracking in Lancashire.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, actresses Emma Thompson and Vanessa Redgrave, singers Thom Yorke and Charlotte Church, Green, and the Green MP Caroline Lucas were among those who attended.

At the scene

Claire Marshall, BBC environment correspondent

The London march has attracted campaigners from across the world - and testimonies from two marchers have been particularly poignant.

Mickaele Maiava is from Tokelau, a territory of New Zealand, which consists of a collection of coral atolls. Its geography puts it at sea level, and the rise in sea level is rendering the land where he plants crops useless. It is now poisoned by the salt water.

Wearing a traditional head dress, he said his people had been shouting about climate change for years. He feels angry, but now more hopeful that action will finally be taken.

Another woman dressed in a polar bear suit was from southern France. Lea had wanted to go on the march in Paris but security concerns meant it was cancelled. She said life has to go on - you can't live in fear.

Ms Westwood said: "Global warming is at a tipping point. If we go past it we can't stop it. We are there right now. We have to stop it."

Addressing the crowds before the march began, Mr Corbyn said: "The issues facing the world in Paris this week are pollution, climate change, inequality, environmental refugees, war refugees and resources wars.

"If we are to make a real difference in Paris, all these issues have got to be thought about and addressed."

The musician Peter Gabriel was also on the march and told the BBC: "The issue is really being taken more seriously and the politicians - I think if they see these numbers too - will begin to act definitely and I hope achieve agreement."

Friends of the Earth chief executive Craig Bennett described the event as "a fantastic display of people power".

UN climate conference 30 Nov - 11 Dec 2015

COP 21 - the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties - will see more than 190 nations gather in Paris to discuss a possible new global agreement on climate change, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the threat of dangerous warming due to human activities.

Explained: What is climate change?

In video: Why does the Paris conference matter?

Analysis: Latest from BBC environment correspondent Matt McGrath

More: BBC News special report (or follow "UN Climate Change Conference" tag in the BBC News app)

Image copyright PA
Image caption The march was expected to be the largest protest event ahead of the Paris talks
Image copyright PA
Image caption The route took the campaigners past the Houses of Parliament
Image caption ...and ended a short distance away at Millbank
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Greenpeace activists carried cut outs of polar bears to emphasise the effect of climate change on the Arctic
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The message from other campaigners on the march was stated more directly
Image copyright PA
Image caption Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and fashion designer Vivienne Westwood joined the march
Image copyright PA
Image caption Edinburgh was among the other cities in the UK to host a march

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