Naomi Klein: France took advantage of Paris terror attacks during COP21

Author and activist Naomi Klein. [James Crisp]

Author and activist Naomi Klein has accused the French government of “taking advantage of people’s grief and fear” to ban climate change protests in Paris, after the terror attacks that killed 130 people in the capital.

After November’s attacks, France banned marches during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21), which Paris is hosting.

Klein said on Thursday (10 December), “I believe the French government has taken advantage of people’s grief and of people’s fear, and it has to stop.”

The author of bestseller This Changes Everything is in Paris for COP21, which enters its final day today. The conference of almost 200 countries is an international negotiation aimed at capping global warming.

The Canadian journalist, a hero to the left, was talking to a rapturous audience of 1,000 activists at a side event at the Le Centquartre, a cultural centre in Paris’ 19th arrondissement.

The venue’s capacity is 2,000 and it was standing room only last night. It is just over two miles (3.6KM) from the Bataclan theatre, where militants gunned down 89 music fans at an Eagles of Death Metal concert.

On Saturday, protestors are planning to have “the last word” on COP21 by defying the ban, Other demonstrations breaching the state of emergency rule have resulted in clashes with police.

“We will not win anything if we do not defend our rights to be in the streets, and our right to organise, and on 12 December at 12 noon, let’s take back the streets,” Klein said to wild applause.

Activists today (11 December) revealed the protest will be held at the Arc De Triomphe, close to the tomb of the unknown soldier. At 12 on the twelfth day of the twelfth month, they will “honour the lives lost to climate change”. They will smear their bodies with red paint to symbolise the red lines of the agreement they will not tolerate being crossed. 

Switching to French, Klein said, “Liberty is not just a word. It’s a duty. It doesn’t just concern football matches and Christmas markets.”

It is not the first time Klein, whose audience scrabbled for autographs at the front of the stage, has criticised the French for allowing football and Christmas markets to continue, but not demonstrations.

But the accusation France has exploited the tragic terror attacks by ISIS-inspired fanatics, is a ratcheting up of her rhetoric.

She has previously blamed the ban on the perceived influence of big corporations over the COP21, describing the banned marches as a “victim of austerity”.

The French government has not given enough state funding to the conference, leading to multinational companies sponsoring the talks, she has said.

>>Read: Naomi Klein criticises protest restrictions at Paris climate talks

Despite her demands for freedom of speech, Klein is extremely guarded with the press. She is alleged to demand any interview questions in advance and recently snubbed an interview with Le Monde.

The COP has run for the last fortnight. As of last night it appeared likely, if a deal is struck, governments could set the cap of two degrees above pre-industrial levels, with a long-term ambition of 1.5 degrees.

But Klein, described by many in her audience as a “star” last night said any deal was doomed to failure. “This climate meeting failed before the meeting started,” she said.

The Capitalism vs. the Climate event was about how free trade agreements such as the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which the EU is negotiating with the US, undermines the climate.

Klein said that the COP21 deal should afford developing countries, many of which are most at risk of climate change, the same protection that TTIP will offer corporations.

Negotiations on climate change began in 1992, and the UN organises an annual international climate change conference called the Conference of the Parties, or COP.

Paris is hosting the all-important 21st conference in December 2015. The participating states must reach an agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol, the object of which was to reduce CO2 emissions between 2008 and 2012.

  • 12 December: Protest march


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