19 November 2015 - 03:28 PM
COP21: A Climate Summit Without Marches
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After the tragic events in Paris on November 13, all eyes seemingly fell on France. But the attacks have already cast a shadow on the upcoming climate talks due to begin in Paris Nov. 30—what are seen as critical in mitigating the impact of climate change.

French officials have increased security in Paris since the Nov. 13 attacks, and canceled several planned mass demonstrations.

The climate conference will still go on, and media outlets have been keen to repeat statements by French officials that the continuation of the conference represents a statement against terrorism.

With that said, however, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced shortly after the Paris attacks, in which 129 people were killed, that the planned marches and concerts meant to accompany the formal talks have been canceled.

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This includes the cancellation of two mega marches planned for Nov. 29, the day before the talks begin, as well as Dec. 12, at the end of the two weeks of negotiations. Organizers were hoping that as many as 200,000 environmentalists and concerned citizens would participate.

However, organizers of the marches are determined that their voices will be heard during the leaders' summit, if not via mass marches then through more creative ways.

“We realize the gravity of the situation, but now more than ever, we need to find creative ideas to call on people to unite around climate action,” said Juliette Rousseau, coordinator of the Coalition Climate 21, the network of NGOS coordinating the mobilizations.

Nicolas Haeringer from the organization 350.org echoed these concerns calling on people in other parts of the world to continue with the march.

“While this makes it difficult to go forward with our original plans, we will still find a way for people in Paris to make the call for climate justice heard, and we encourage everyone around the world to join a global climate march and raise their voices louder than ever,” he said.

The cancellations have closed off grassroots movements from voicing their discontent with world leaders and current climate policies. This has led many to wonder if a climate summit involving only world leaders can really meet its goal to actually address climate change in a meaningful way.

“There will be no COP21 without civil society and our voices will be heard inside that conference center and in capitals around the world," said Wael Hmaidan, director of Climate Action Network International.

In the last six years, more than 150 governments have submitted national climate action plans for the coming decade, which has led some people to be optimistic about the current climate summit

However, a closer look at the major achievements of battling climate change over the years reveal that they have come from the streets and grassroots movements, who have acted instead of waiting for governments to make top-down decisions.

This has been evident with other major climate summits in the past, which were also expected to decipher the fate of the planet in their time. This includes, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the 2005 Montreal Action Plan, the 2009 Copenhagen Accord, the 2013 Warsaw Talks, and more recently the 2014 COP20 in Lima. In all of these instances, world leaders were either unable to agree on any meaningful climate solutions or agreed to a climate plan that they were unable to properly implement later on.

Social movements on the other hand played a major role in pressuring Obama to think twice about the Keystone XL pipeline; stalling Shell’s actions in the Arctic, which eventually led to the dismemberment of the drilling project; and stopping the Northern Gateway pipeline from pummeling through Western Canada.

These are the very same movements that now will no longer have the right to march on the streets of Paris.

Will their absence negatively impact the content of any agreement?

If the decision to proceed with talks is a stand against terrorism, than silencing civil society by not allowing them to march, may just constitute a victory for the Paris attackers.

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