As politicians cut a dirty deal on climate change, some 20,000 people protested on the streets of Paris last Saturday.
Among the biggest of various actions, activists blocked the road by the Arc de Triomphe in a massive “red line” against pollution.
Isabelle from London found it “inspiring”. She said, “I’ve been on protests before, but never a direct action.
“But having a child has made me see it’s needed—what will the future be like if I don’t act?
“We need people to take to the streets and get arrested if necessary.”
The action had been banned under France’s state of emergency.
For Sonia from Bolivia, “It’s a way of keeping the people from having our say while the politicians and big companies are negotiating.”
But the authorities backed down as organisers held firm and thousands attended meetings through the week. “That shows the effect of mobilising,” said Sonia.
Few campaigners expected much from the negotiations. Salion from Senegal said, “They are too focused on who pays for pollution.
“It should be about stopping pollution.”
Protesters had planned to go in small groups to an authorised rally and concert by the Eiffel Tower. Instead it became a march, and people chanted anti-capitalist slogans.
Student Nora from Finland said, “It was good to march through so many places—people could see us looking cheerful and powerful.”
Much of the demonstration was international. A delegation of around 500, organised by Friends of the Earth, came from Britain.
The state of emergency appeared to have kept some Parisians away, but gave others extra motivation.
Pascaline said the ban “means our protests can be even more significant and visible.
“It also shows how capitalism is in crisis, and how we need to do something about it.”
But there was much debate about what to do. Some aimed to pressure politicians, others to get rid of the system. Many talked about lifestyle changes.
But Huon from Australia said, “It’s going in the right direction—away from things like ‘oh, turn off your tap when you’re cleaning your teeth’.
“No serious climate organisation talks like that any more.”
Around 40 people came from the Red Youth in Norway. Aram said, “It needs to be old school style—united, like in a union.”
More typical were those brought by NGOs, such as Frederik from Belgium, who described his ideas as “more like anarchism”.
He said, “It’s important to see how many people from different ideologies are coming together—and this is just the start.”
People wanted to keep up the fight. Pascaline said, “We need to keep building. It has to be about a mass movement, not small actions.”
Politicians ‘aspire’ to stop climate change—and pledge to let planet burn
The deal saw politicians “aspire” to keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
In reality, their deal will heat the world up more than twice as much.
Top polluters congratulated themselves for the “historic” agreement.
But for it to work most gas, oil and coal reserves would have to stay in the ground. They aren’t mentioned once.
Bosses know what this means. World Coal Organisation chief Benjamin Sporton predicted no “massive change at the moment”.
For British oil boss Amjad Beisu, “the industry has other challenges”.
Every country that signed the deal has a plan for reducing its emissions below a projected “business as usual”.
For developing countries that still allows for increasing emissions.
Developed countries can continue to reduce them very slowly, partly by offshoring polluting industries. The plans don’t include aviation and shipping—which make up 10 percent of emissions.
They leave a lot of room for massaging the figures.
Nothing stops governments breaking them. US Republican opposition leaders vowed to scupper theirs.
But even if they were accurate and binding, scientists say they mean three degrees warming—or even four or more.
In theory the plans will be “ratcheted” up.
But not for at least five years, and then there’s no guarantee.
The deal doesn’t call for emissions to fall until a “peak” that could come as late as 2050.
Even that is global “net” emissions.
That means bosses can gamble on not cutting emissions in case carbon capture technology is developed to take them out of the atmosphere.
Yet there is no reason to believe such technologies will ever exist.
Last month the Tories cut £1 billion of funding for research to find out.
Richer countries promised that after 2020 they’ll give poorer countries money they’d already promised in 2009.
The 1.5 degree target is a longstanding demand of island nations threatened by rising seas.
And it’s one that big polluters have long resisted.
Its inclusion shows the pressure to act.
But with nothing to make it happen, it’s just a fake alibi for wrecking the climate.