Day 0: The Action Begins

  • Nov. 13 attacks in Paris have given people a greater urgency to achieve a lasting climate deal at COP21
  • The public has a voice and a stake in the conference — and they demonstrated it despite cancellation of a climate march in Place de la République
  • Before demonstrations in the plaza became violent, they were positive — much like the March of Resilience earlier this month at Yale

COP21 has not officially begun, but today in Paris I felt the widespread ambition and urgency to achieve a climate deal. I began the day by heading over the Paris-Le Bourget site to receive my observer’s badge, and I saw hundreds of people in business attire, employees preparing the venues, and conference staff giving directions. I also saw some police forces French president François Hollande deployed to protect the site before everyone arrives. But the place was mostly quiet.

In the afternoon, however, the action built around me. I was at the Place de la République, paying my respects to the candlelit, decorated memorial that sprung up around the main statue after the massacres of Nov. 13, which happened blocks from the plaza. There was one person, surrounded by others, speaking fervently in French into a loudspeaker. Then there were two more with some people holding signs — about climate change — behind them. Within half an hour, the plaza was filled with demonstrators holding cardboard signs, banners, and flags proclaiming the injustices human beings have wrought the Earth and the actions — nay, the revolution — needed to fight back those wrongs. People were shouting, chanting, marching, clapping, waving their arms, and dancing; the People’s Climate March that had been scheduled here and cancelled due to security concerns after Nov. 13 became this impassioned gathering.

I was inspired and picked up a flyer, but it was about legal information and what to do under police threat. I noticed people wearing blank white masks. I saw two people climb up onto the République statue, shout, and be warned off by the police. I saw people dancing and placing their shoes in the street (to represent those who could not make the cancelled march), in front of a line of foreboding police. Then, after the majority of the demonstrations faded and I left, I read about the demonstrators who had become violent and thrown things at the police and the police who had dispersed the rioters with tear gas. I was shocked, and I wanted to go back, but the metro lines were closed.

So I’ll wait until tomorrow — to see how the action develops when the conference begins.

Person of the Day: Soojin Choi, liaison to Seoul Metropolitan Government for ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability. She introduced herself to me after we rode the COP21 shuttle together and told me about her work to bridge city and local governments across the world in sustainable action. COP21 operates not only because of international players but also because of individuals like Choi and the subnational governments she engages.

Article of the Day: What do we need to come out of Paris?

Day 0: The Action Begins

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