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Kansas City Activists March Through Plaza Before UN Climate Change Summit

Cody Newill
Organizer John Kurmann (right) and about 100 other climate change activists walked through the cold rain Sunday to voice their support for energy regulations before the UN's climate conference in Paris.

Around 100 activists didn't let cold rain dissuade them from marching through the Country Club Plaza Sunday to voice their support for more strict environmental regulations before the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris.

The group, organized by environmental advocacy groups 350KC and the KC Climate Coalition, wove through the Plaza chanting, "Turn on clean energy, turn off fossil fuels." They were part of the Global Climate March, which encompassed more than 2,000 events in 175 countries over the weekend.

Credit Cody Newill / KCUR
Many carried signs saying, "Turn off fossil fuel," as they chanted and marched through the Plaza.

John Kurmann helped organize the event in Kansas City. He feels that there's a burgeoning ground swell of support for green energy.

"I can't think of a single social change movement that has succeeded without people getting up and out of their chairs and into the street," Kurmann said. "We had a great turnout today, but we need a much bigger turnout moving forward because our politicians aren't ready to do what we need them to do."

Two specific goals that the group wants to see come out of the UN's conference are caps limiting oil companies from accessing 80 percent of crude material in reserves and a commitment to supply all of America's energy consumption with green energy by 2050.

Fellow organizer and Kansas Sierra Club Communications Director Craig Wolfe says that those goals are lofty, but necessary to sustain human civilization in the coming decades.

"Eventually [these things] have to be pushed because there's no negotiating with nature," Wolfe said. "There's no negotiating with science and physics. We either do it or we don't, and if we don't, we're going to have a planet that will suffer dramatically in the future."

Credit Cody Newill / KCUR
U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver spoke about the need to address climate change after the march at All Souls Unitarian Church. He will be attending the UN's conference.

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver joined the protesters at a rally at All Souls Unitarian Church after the march. He said ideology fuels climate change deniers, but that the issue should transcend politics.

"It doesn't matter if you're a farmer or a factory worker, no corner of this planet and no sector of this economy will be unscathed by climate change," Cleaver said. "We're trying to get things done in Washington D.C., but it's a difficult environment to get things done in."

Other speakers included city councilwoman Katheryn Shields, who highlighted a recent ordinance passed by city council that seeks to divest city employee pension funds from oil companies.

COP21 will run from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11. Activists are already planning to hold a reaction rally after the conference on Dec. 12.

Cody Newill is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @CodyNewill or send him an email at cody@kcur.org.

Cody Newill is part of KCUR's audience development team. Follow him on Twitter @CodyNewill or email him at cody@kcur.org.
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