UN climate summit

'System change, not climate change': Activists say Paris Agreement is not enough

Historic summit closes with mass rally for climate justice
Photo: Joel Lukhovi | Survival Media Agency

On the sidelines of the final day of COP21 in Paris, a large rally called “For the Climate and for Justice” was held at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, bringing together environmental activists from around the world.

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While people patiently waited for word on the agreement resulting from two weeks of negotiations, crowds of environmental tourists, in Paris not only for the UN conference but also this large citizen mobilization, were gathering at the Champs de Mars park near the city’s emblematic landmark.

Under heavy police surveillance, with the entry points to the demonstration marked and controlled, many thousands of people formed a “human chain” for climate justice.

After the Nov. 11 attacks in Paris, this public rally, organized by a number French organizations including Amis de la Terre France, Alternatiba, Action Non Violente COP21 and Coordination Pas Sans Nou, among others, almost did not take place. However, in the end, under the banner of “+3C: Climate emergency,” the protest took place calmly, peacefully and joyfully.

Paris deal won’t end climate injustice

For many of those at the demonstration, the Paris Agreement, even before it had been presented and signed, was insufficient.

“As long as the dictatorship of finance and the multinationals rules, there will be climate injustice, which mainly affects emerging countries,” said one rally participant from the Coalition citoyenne Cop21, speaking in French while holding a banner that read, “Change the system, not the climate.”

“The accord is not binding, and if measures are not taken for five years, that’s serious. Once we go past 1.5C warming, nobody will be able to stop the machine. We have the expertise to change things. We know how to do it, we have money to do it, we have to take the decisions to do it.”

Yves Rious, an activist with ATTAC France, shared a similar view in French. “We find that the measures are deeply insufficient, and especially that the dialogue with civil society is not present enough. We can see it in the number of people here.”

At the end of the mobilization, close to a military school, slogans and songs could be heard from the stage set up for the occasion. Naomi Klein gave a speech, focused on the urgent need to act together. The organizers were pleased with how well the rally, which had been declared cancelled until the last moment, was pulled off.

An historic accord … in 2020

On the morning of Dec. 12, before allowing the 195 state delegations to deliberate on the Paris Agreement, Laurent Fabius, France’s minister of foreign affairs and international development, affirmed that the text was accepted by all and that it marked an historic turning point. Fabius spoke of a balanced text that shows the way forward.

At around 5 p.m. on Dec. 12, an emotional Fabius announced that the accord had been accepted unanimously, pounding the table with a green gavel designed for the occasion. A standing ovation and a round of applause for world leaders followed.

“It’s rare in a life to have the opportunity to change the world. Vive l'humanité et vive la vie,” declared French President François Hollande following the announcement.

The Paris Agreement notably calls for a $100 billion of aid for countries in the Global South, mechanisms to support the protection of Latin America’s forests, and a cycle of five-year collective reviews of measures taken by countries in the fight against climate change. The accord must still be ratified by the UN before coming into effect in 2020.

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