People from around the world on Friday stretched a large "red line" through the COP21 summit to register their outrage at politicians' failure to strike an ambitious draft climate deal—and to call for social movements in Paris and internationally to continue to take to the streets.
"Once again, world leaders have shown they lack the political courage, decency, and integrity to stand up for the needs of the most impacted communities around the world in the biggest ecological crisis of our time," Ananda Lee Tan, a Vancouver-based organizer with Climate Justice Alliance, told Common Dreams over the phone from Paris.
"Our assessment is that, again, it is left up to us," Lee Tan added. "We know it is people and communities that have to lead us out of this ecological crisis."
Friday's action came on the heels of Thursday night's release of yet another draft deal between representatives of countries gathered at the United Nations-brokered talks, with presiding officer, Laurent Fabius of France, claiming that the agreement is "very near to the finish line." The COP21 talks were extended to Saturday, which could bring a finalized accord.
"Tomorrow we will step it up on the streets of Paris, but we need to continue to get more people on the streets—block by block, community by community—to fight this global confluence of governments and corporations."
—Ananda Lee Tan, Climate Justice Alliance
However, key demands from civil society groups remain unresolved or unaddressed, including, as summarized by John Cushman of Inside Climate News: "the responsibility of richer and poorer nations in cutting emissions; the ambition reflected in the treaty’s long-term goals, and the pathways toward reaching them. And, as ever, the thorniest is who pays."
What's more, the COP21 treaty draft excludes references to human rights and gender equality.
"Rich countries have moved the goal posts so far that a just deal in Paris is inconceivable," said Lucy Cadena, Friends of the Earth International climate justice and energy coordinator, in a statement responding to the latest draft. "If this text indicates what will be agreed here, we will be left with a deal that fails humanity."
"This text dismantles the core foundations of the UN climate convention," Cadena continued. "The pillars of a just agreement—ambition and equity—have been completely undermined. After all the warm words of developed countries on a 1.5 degree limit, the new text contains no obligation to stay under this threshold. Shockingly, the text could allow for carbon emissions to continue until 2099."
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Some environmental groups identified hopeful signs, but emphasized that continued pressure is vital.
"The latest draft text has a lot of aspirational language, the real test will be what it means on the ground," said Payal Parekh, global managing director for the climate group 350.org. "The standard of any effective climate policy is clear: does it keep fossil fuels in the ground and accelerate a just transition to 100 percent renewable energy? The commitments we are seeing in the text are a start, but they won’t get the job done, so activists are already mobilizing to close the gap between rhetoric and reality."
From the global peasant movement La Via Campesina to advocacy organization Oil Change International, many have argued that the heavy role of multinational corporations at all levels of the talks is obstructing a deal that is truly in the public interest. Meanwhile, the It Takes Roots delegation on Thursday staged an action exposing the role of the U.S. government in driving global conflict, resource wars, displacement, and climate destruction.
"Rich countries have moved the goal posts so far that a just deal in Paris is inconceivable."
—Lucy Cadena, Friends of the Earth International
"We know that the agreement discussed at Le Bourget comes up way short, putting the world on a path to a three-degree Celsius increase in temperature or more," French social movement organization Attac said in a recent statement. "That’s a grave failure, given the fact that we’re already seeing dangerous consequences of climate change."
Attac is one of many social movement organizations and trade unions that have vowed to defy a ban on public protests for a large mobilization in Paris on Saturday, under the banner of "Red Lines." Protesters will unfurl large banners declaring "Crimes Climatiques, Stop!" and will place over 5,000 red tulips along the banners "as a tribute to the victims of climate change and the fossil fuel industry, and their commitment to keep up the fight for climate justice after the Paris talks," according to a statement from 350.org.
"It’s about respecting those who have already died from the effects of global warming—from New Orleans a decade ago to Chennai a week ago. The people hurt the most are those who’ve done the least to cause this problem, which makes climate change the ultimate injustice in an unjust world," said Attac. "It's about respecting those who will die in the future."
Meanwhile, organizers emphasize that weeks of workshops, skill-shares, assemblies, and joint actions have helped strengthen climate justice movements on a global scale—and point towards sustained action.
"What we have gained out of COP21 is deepened relationships with other social movement forces, like peasants, Indigenous communities, international trade union federations, and environmental activists," said Lee Tan. "Tomorrow we will step it up on the streets of Paris, but we need to continue to get more people on the streets—block by block, community by community—to fight this global confluence of governments and corporations."