Climate Change – To Paris and through Paris

John Rae

2015 was always going to be a crucial year for climate change.

The 5th report of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published last year confirmed that global warming is ongoing, that its main cause is the burning of fossil fuels, and that its consequences are potentially catastrophic.

It concluded that it is still “probably” possible to avoid a rise of the average temperature of more than 2°C over pre-industrial levels, that would trigger irreversible feed-backs, but major changes will have to be made. To continue along the lines of the last 20 years would risk temperature rises by the end of the century of between 3.7 and 4.8 °C leading to severe impacts that would be widespread and irreversible”.

More recent studies demonstrate that the estimated date for the 2°C increase been brought forward from 2046 to 2038.

The recent G7 summit in Bavaria declared that “urgent and concrete action is needed to address climate change”. It then reaffirmed the disastrous agreement of the 2009 UN climate summit in Copenhagen, of preventing 2°C rise in the global temperature by the end of the century.

This does not look good for the Paris summit, but that does not make it any less important. With the Kyoto Protocol having expired, and Co2 emissions rising, this could be the last chance to get a binding agreement in place to prevent the 2° temperature rise.

COP 15 in Copenhagen in December 2009 was a spectacular failure because a binding agreement was sabotaged—in the face of a 5000 strong demonstration— with countries only required to ‘take note’ of the targets adopted. Climate activists and environmental organisations were shattered and the campaign against climate change globally was set back for several years.

Campaigners for Paris are demanding a binding international agreement and pointing out the consequences of failure. They are therefore not just building for Paris but through Paris – with campaigns and actions in place for the first part of 2016. The mobilisation for the COP is not as an end in itself but a focus for the struggle and the means of building the kind of movement we need to bring about real change.

This means the biggest possible mobilisation around the Paris events—both the actions taking place in Paris and the solidarity mobilisations that will be taking place around the world. There will be an agreement in Paris, no doubt, but it will almost certainly fall short of what is required.

We have to come out of Paris with a stronger movement even in the event of failure. Paris needs to be seen as the next step in the struggle and a springboard for campaigning events running into 2016.

The build up for Paris started (in effect) last September with the Peoples Climate March initiative that generated 2646 events in 162 countries. 400,000 marched in New York and 40,000 marched in London. In Britain, the Time to Act demonstration on March 7was also a part of the preparation for Paris.

The organisation for Paris itself started in earnest in this country with a meeting called by Friends of the Earth on May 6 at their office in South London.

It was a broadly based meeting with around 30 diverse organisations attending ranging from ecological and climate change organisations (including the Campaign against Climate Change) to NGOs such as Oxfam, Greenpeace, Christian Aid, and Avaaz—these were some of the organisations that mobilised for the People Climate March in September.

There were three trade unions represented: The PCS, the GMB and Unison. The only political party there was Left Unity, though the Green Party was clearly involved. (It was the day before the general election).

The meeting established a campaigning structure that will be the main co-ordination for organising around the Paris events in England. This group will take the main decisions in term of activity around COP 21 in England, in conjunction with similar coalitions in Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.
The meeting received a report from a representative from the French organising coalition. She explained that the French coalition had hosted an open meeting at the World Social Forum in Tunis on March 23 -24 which set out some broad proposals for the events around the Paris COP, that will be the framework in which the French coalition will conduct the events.
The French coalition comprises over 200 organisations; social movements, environmental organisations, youth organisations, faith groups, and activist organisations such as anti-fracking campaigns. It has the support of whole of the French trade union movement, other than the right wing. Nothing was said about political parties.

The events and mobilisation around the COP will run from November 28 – December 12. The big mobilisation events will be the weekend of the start of the COP; November 28-29 and the Saturday at the end of the COP which is December 12.

November 28-29 is planned as a time of major demonstrations and mass mobilisations across Europe and beyond—on either day depending on local circumstances.

There will be a huge demonstration in Paris. Action has already been announced in a number of European countries, some on the Saturday and some on the Sunday. In these islands the dates have also been fixed. In England there will be a national demonstration in London on Sunday 29, and there will be demonstrations in Edinburgh and Dublin on Saturday 28.

During the COP there will be multiple events and activities in Paris, particularly in the second week, details of which are still emerging. The French coalition is calling for significant international participation in these and is aiming to provide 50,000 bed spaces for the second week.

December 12 will see a massive Europe-wide mobilisation in Paris itself to demonstrate that the struggle continues. In Britain there are plans for a mass mobilisation for this event which will take the form of a fleet of coaches heading for Paris and possibly a chartered Eurostar train for those who can afford it.

Whatever the outcome of the discussions between the heads of government we will need a strengthened movement to moves on to the next stage of the struggle.

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