Saturday, November 21, 2015
Is the Paris Conference a Lost Cause?
Naomi Klein, on the other hand, says no: with the French state of emergency banning all public demonstrations, the elaborately planned marches and protests will not be allowed, and she makes the case that without that popular call to action the conference will lose a major dimension of its purpose. Others in the climate movement are suggesting that they will take to the streets anyway, massing in the Place de la République for the big November 29 march despite the legal prohibition. Efforts to carry out the 'red-line' protests--intended to call attention to places in the draft agreement where national proposals (INDCs) cross a 'red line' into a recognized danger zone--will take place as much as possible on line. Klein would surely object that the chance for public notice will be greatly reduced, though some useful communication might be possible.
Have the terrorists thus trumped the climate movement? In some sense, no--the main event here was always the international accord, which has a reasonable chance of going forward. Inadequate as it may be, the draft agreement will most likely resolve its ambiguities and stand as a benchmark at least for future efforts to reduce greenhouse gas and slow the pace of climate change.
But Klein is right that the popular pressure is a necessary element in driving reluctant governments--and even more reluctant corporations--to make drastic changes in the global energy business. The current COP 21 proposals are only a small step toward a real solution, and the work of activists--from 350.org to Greenpeace and all the rest--is only beginning to hit its stride. In that sense the chance to stage imaginative, media-friendly protests in Paris before a large global audience is a big loss. On the other hand, the real issue for movement activists is staying power--the real work of strengthening this year's agreements will take place over the next 5 to 10 years. Paris would have been a great momentum builder, but that chance really is preempted now. The wealth of imagination, energy, and devotion that went into those aborted plans will have to regroup and start anew, starting on December 11th.