Top politicians from almost 200 countries went to Paris on Monday of this week to talk about things they won’t do to tackle climate change.
Thousands of corporate lobbyists joined them. The United Nations Cop21 summit is 20 percent funded by private sponsors. Some of the world’s biggest polluters are using it to clean up their image.
They include fossil fuel energy giants Engie and EDF, car makers Renault and Nissan and Air France.
In theory the goal is to come to an agreement on cutting carbon emissions to limit global warming.
We are already halfway to the limit of 2 degrees warming since pre-industrial times agreed at a previous summit in Cancun, Mexico, in 2010.
Most of the plans being discussed would lead to far more warming. But even before the summit powerful players were coming out to say they’d make sure they wouldn’t have to stick to any agreement.
US secretary of state John Kerry said any deal reached in Paris was “definitively not going to be a treaty”.
Canada’s environment minister Catherine McKenna backed him up, saying “We don’t expect that the targets will be internationally legally binding.” But this takes the teeth out of any agreement.
Claudio, a campaigner from the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador, told Socialist Worker in Paris, “They need to come to a binding agreement.
“Otherwise what’s the point of talking if we just keep polluting?”
People demanded more serious action on hundreds of demonstrations around the world.
Some 70,000 people joined Britain’s biggest ever climate change demonstration in London on Sunday of last week, The People’s March for Climate, Justice and Jobs.
Marchers were motivated by various issues, but many argued global solutions were necessary.
Dorothea, a Greenpeace activist, said the devastation of Indonesian forest fires had motivated her to march. “It’s the land of the world,” she said. “We want action from governments now.”
Whole families were out marching alongside big mobilisations from pressure groups and charities, the Green Party, campaigns and trade unions.
Arun from London was on his first ever demonstration. He told Socialist Worker, “It feels fantastic, there’s a big sense of solidarity.”
Marches also took place in Wales and Scotland. Some 3,000 people marched in Bristol. And hundreds more protested in Leeds.
Nottingham anti-fracking activist Greg told Socialist Worker, “So many politicians are connected with the oil and gas industry and are pushing those vested interests.
“Everyone who takes part can feel isolated locally, but these marches show we are part of a bigger movement.”
Asya from Kingston agreed, saying, “We have the power to force a change for our future.”
Protesters filled Paris’s streets on the eve of the summit last Sunday—despite president Francois Hollande’s best attempts to keep them away.
Around 5,000 people marched around the Place de la Republique square in the afternoon. They defied an explicit ban and a hail of police teargas grenades and projectiles.
Civil service worker Malvina, one of the marchers, told Socialist Worker, “It’s our right to make our voices heard and the stakes for the climate are really high.
“We’re sick of the state and the big companies imposing their law, wrecking our planet and our human rights.”
Prior to the Paris attacks earlier this month, hundreds of thousands had been set to march for action on climate change. But Hollande called a state of emergency and banned all protests in the region.
The police ramped up repression. First they raided activists and placed 28 under a form of house arrest, then “advised” citizens to avoid leaving their homes on the day.
Yet the streets were full of people. Demonstrations took place in other cities around France.
And the NGOs and trade unions that had called the demonstration looked for other ways to mobilise.
In the morning thousands of people gave their shoes to the Avaaz NGO to “march in our place” in a symbolic display at Place de la Republique.
Next, organisers say 10,000 people joined a human chain along what would have been the demonstration’s route. “Change the system—not the climate” was one of the most popular slogans.
Engineer Aurore told Socialist Worker, “I was gutted when I heard about the ban. We made a commitment for the climate and we have to keep it.”
Many people were nervous at first. But the human chain took on a joyous atmosphere as people took confidence from taking to the streets.
That fed into dancing on the streets around Republique square as people gathered to defy the ban. They chanted “State of emergency, police state—you won’t take away our right to demonstrate!”
Cops blocked the avenue to stop the march going any further, then gassed and kettled the square.
They arrested some 341 people, including revolutionary left activists, keeping many of them kettled or on a police bus in the square for over four hours. All but nine were released by Tuesday.
A solid strike by teachers in defence of their arrested colleague shut down one college on Monday.
Some 58 anti-racists could already face charges over a migrants’ demonstration last week.
But the protest had already sent a clear message to Hollande and the polluters. Boris told Socialist Worker, “Previous generations fought for our right to protest, we’re here to use it.
“More and more people are seeing that there has to be real change in society—the state needs to see that too.”
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