The arrival of 147 heads of state in Paris on Sunday will take place under a draconian security regime. With many NGO demonstrations cancelled, some plan to turn to civil disobedience to make their voices heard. EURACTIV France reports.
As the COP21 looms ever closer, NGOs have to negotiate ever stricter security rules to ensure their points of view will be taken into account at the climate conference. In the current security climate, this is far from simple.
“Of course exceptional security measures have been enforced, and we have no problem accepting this. But we have the feeling that the demonstrations that have been authorised or denied have been filtered politically,” Jean-François Julliard, the president of Greenpeace France, said at an NGO conference on Wednesday (25 November).
A prime example is the opposition to the demonstration against the proposed Notre Dame des Landes airport. A group of some 200 cyclists left the city of Nantes, in North West France, last weekend, aiming to arrive in the department of Eure-et-Loir on Thursday (26 November). But they were notified en route of a ban on public demonstrations on the area’s public roads.
On Sunday, the police blocked the demonstrators’ route for two hours. “They authorised a Christmas market, but banned a peaceful demonstration against a useless airport,” said Malika Peyrault from Friends of the Earth.
The few demonstrations that have not been affected have had to take on unusual forms, as the Parisian authorities, as well as many other French local authorities, have enforced a ban on demonstrating. Instead, demonstrators will form a human chain between the Bastille and the Place de la Nation in Paris, along the route originally planned for the march.
NGOs are also calling for participants to assemble on the cafe terraces along the route in question. Many organisers have encouraged Parisians to “brave the state of emergency”.
“Yes, there is a state of emergency, but there is also a climate emergency,” said Alix Mazounie, from the Climate Action Network.
The March4me initiative, which offers French citizens the chance to delegate their climate demonstration to a “marcher” outside France, began to take off on Wednesday (25 November). Around 60 demonstrations are planned around the world this Saturday (29 November).
Motorways closed for 147 heads of state
France’s Minister of the Interior, Bernard Cazeneuve, said, “In the context of the very high threat that our country is facing, the success of the COP21 also depends on the optimal securitisation of this demonstration.”
2,800 police officers and gendarmes will be deployed to protect the site of le Bourget, which will host the 40,000 participants of the climate conference. This is almost double the 1,500 police officers, gendarmes and fire fighters that had originally been assigned to the event.
These will be joined by 106 United Nations guards and 292 private security agents. Several motorways, roads and avenues in the Paris region will be closed to ensure the security of the 147 heads of state that will be present.
But the Parisian public transport network will be free of charge on Sunday and Monday (29 and 30 November).
NGOs are also concerned about whether their very place at the negotiation table is assured. They had already been excluded from the negotiations in Bonn, in October this year. This time, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Laurent Fabius, promised they would be able to participate at the start and the end of the negotiation process.
“But the middle of the negotiations is precisely when we can have the biggest impact,” the Climate Action Network stated.
NGOs are still worried about where the Paris agreements will lead. “The Bonn text is not based in reality. We do not even know what timescale we are talking about: are the commitments made for 2050? 2100? As soon as possible? Many elements that would make this a solid document are lacking,” said Julliard.
For Romain Benicchio, from Oxfam, the main source of concern is how the commitments will be financed; a question that continues to go unanswered. “The need for adaptation will be 50% higher if the climate heats up by 3°C. If this happens, the cost of adaptation could reach $800 billion in 2050!”
François Hollande confident
In an interview with l’Express on Thursday (26 November), France’s President François Hollande stressed the important role finance would play in finalising an agreement.
“The emerging countries – India, Brazil, China, South Africa… – do not want the fight against climate change to damage their economies,” he said. The French president added that it was on precisely these questions of economic development “that the main risk of blockage would occur”.
He also highlighted that industrialised countries were “not far from the objective” of providing $100 billion per year to the fund for fighting climate change in the global South.