Youth stand with vulnerable to demand climate justice

By Morgan Curtis. 3 december, 2015. The New Internationalist. Retrieved from here.

Young delegates inside the Paris climate summit were frustrated that the media were ignoring key issues. So yesterday, they took matters into their own hands, Morgan Curtis reports.

“My daughter is 7 days, 20 hours old. I really should not have left her, or her mother, but I am here, speaking for her.” With that declaration of love, Dingdong Dantes, youth commissioner for the Philippines, silenced the room. He was speaking at a high level announcement from the Climate Vulnerable Forum inside COP21 on Monday evening: a brave call from the countries most vulnerable to climate impacts to demand climate justice. Joined by leaders from Costa Rica, Bangladesh and Ethiopia, they issued the Manila-Paris Declaration, boldly demanding climate change be limited to 1.5ºC by all countries signing on to a long term goal of decarbonization by 2050.

In the days previous, youth from around the world gathered at the 11th Conference of Youth to launch a campaign: #ZeroBy2050. We sat in circles, some of us on the floor, for many a meeting, and discussed how we could best push for some sort of outcome from COP21. As young people we have been alive as long at these conferences have been happening, at most. We feel the impacts of climate change now, and don’t often allow ourselves to imagine our futures. We started wearing a circle of face paint around our right eyes to symbolize 0 – zero fossil fuels by 2050, necessary to keep warming below 1.5ºC. Some of us have the immense privilege to be accredited to be working inside the UN space. In here, our face paint says we are watching you.

Not everyone’s voice is heard at the UN. The historic announcement on Monday from the world’s most vulnerable countries was drowned out by coverage of the world’s leaders. On Tuesday, YOUNGO, the youth constituency, held a formal press conference to articulate our demands. Four journalists came. One question was asked. How to get their attention?

With Paris under state of emergency no more than two people may gather in a public space with a shared political message. Inside COP21, it is always a state of emergency. Every banner must be approved by the UN. You must stand in a certain place, and deliver specific messaging. You may not call out any individual country. You must apply to take action 24 hours in advance. You may not be approved.

Our approval came through. Circles showed up again during late night banner painting at the art space. We sang together. We laughed together. We spilled paint and covered it over with a hastily sketched clenched fist. We drafted press releases, recruited photographers and refined messaging. We approached random journalists in the hallways and asked if they would come.

‘Growing up in foothills of the Himalayas, I was 10 years old when I realised the urgency of climate action. I began to see the mountains melt, glacial lakes flood, and the human impacts of the climate crisis on the 2.3 million people who depend on it for fresh water and natural resources,’ said Sagar Aryal, 20, standing before the crowd of press with nearly one hundred young people from around the world behind him. Sagar was 10 years old when he founded the Sano Sansar Initiative for climate action in Nepal. He’s here in Paris as Coordinator of Climate Strike, a global movement of young people skipping school for climate action. After Sagar came AJ from the Marshall Islands. ‘I want you guys to look at me, and think about my people,’ he said. ‘One point five to survive, one point five to strive,” and the crowd began to chant: One point five to stay alive. One point five to stay alive.

A crowd gathered outside of the building after the action. We were surrounded by the flags of the world, outside the security that keeps the citizens from their ‘leaders. Daniel Jubelirer, RYSE Youth Council member of Earth Guardians, had brought together a second group of young people: those not accredited to be on the inside. They all had O’s around their eyes as well. ‘Take off your badges,’ someone cautioned those of who had just come out. ‘We don’t know what’s going to happen.’

We began to sing. Quietly at first.

People gonna rise like the water
Gonna calm this crisis down
I hear the voice of my great grand-daughter
Saying one point five C now

We walked through the flags of the world, heading towards the ‘Green Zone’, the public area of COP21. This space, controlled by the French police instead of UN security, does not have yet have any protocol for actions. Bolstered by supportive cheers and the growing size of our group, we unfurled our banners and formed a march through the booted and suited delegates heading back inside.

A line of x-ray machines and security met us. Banners stuffed in backpacks, we spread out and each made it through successfully. We were soon surrounded. Close to 25 police gathered around us, faces solid, preventing us from entering the building. Before we knew it, we were back outside. The police closed up the banners, and summoned representatives from the UN secretariat. No one was allowed to leave. Anyone entering the building with a painted eye was stopped and brought to join us.

Daniel Jubelirer
Police with banner. Daniel Jubelirer

‘Today we are detained by the police for our eye make-up. Of course. We are in the fashion capital of the world,’ Maria Theresa Lauron, from the Philippines, had joined us as we marched. Banners confiscated, we were put back in one security line, for an even more thorough search to be undertaken. We gathered one-by-one on the other side, shaken, and formed a circle, holding hands. Tetet spoke, this time not a spokesperson to a crowd of journalists, but to each of us, human to human. ‘We stand here with you young people from the US, the belly of the beast. The country with the world’s second highest global emissions and most historical debt to the South. You are choosing to speak truth to power. For us, fighting for climate justice is not a choice. It is a necessity.’

Emboldened by Tetet’s words, we picked up our song once more, marching and gathering smiles and camera snaps all around the building: one point five C now… Hearing word that security was now diverting all those with the painted 0, we washed our faces clean and were let back inside the UN, for now.

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Chronicle of an announced police repression

[Audio in spanish]

Audio chronicle about the French police repression during the protests for climate justice on 29th November in Paris. Contrasting with massive public events such as Christmas markets or sport events that have been able to continue, the Global Climate March had been banned due to the extension of the state of emergency. A human chain took place for an hour between La République and Nation instead of the March, before the events narrated in this post.

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Paris climate activists put under house arrest using emergency laws

By Arthur Neslen. The Guardian. Friday 27 November 2015. Retrieved from here.

French police arrest activist for flouting ban on organising protests during climate talks next week

At least eight climate activists have been put under house arrest by French police, accused of flouting a ban on organising protests during next week’s Paris climate summit, the Guardian has learned.

One legal adviser to the activists said many officers raided his Paris apartment and occupied three floors and a staircase in his block.

French authorities did not respond to requests for comment but lawyers said that the warrants were issued under state of emergency laws, imposed after the terror attacks that killed 130 people earlier this month.

The author and climate change campaigner, Naomi Klein, accused French authorities of “a gross abuse of power that risks turning the summit into a farce”.

“Climate summits are not photo opportunities to boost the popularity of politicians,” she told the Guardian. “Given the stakes of the climate crisis, they are by their nature highly contested. That is democracy, messy as it may be. The French government, under cover of anti-terrorism laws, seems to be trying to avoid this, shamefully banning peaceful demonstrations and using emergency powers to pre-emptively detain key activists.”

Since Thursday, three people have been placed under house arrest in Rens, two in Paris, two in Rouen and one in Lyons, according to campaigners. They may now only leave their houses to sign a post office register verifying their whereabouts, three times a day.

Joel Domenjoud, a legal activist, said that he had been served with a restraining order wrongly describing him as a “principal leader of the ultra-left movement” just hours after a judge refused to hear an appeal against the ban on the climate demo that he had petitioned for.

“I wasn’t there when they came to my house but my neighbour called me to say ‘What’s wrong? The stairs are full of cops from the first to the third floor!’” he said.

Domenjoud says he was then followed by several undercover officers, before returning home, where he was served with the restraining notice.

“I feel angry about it because I think they made a big mistake,” Domenjoud added. “They weren’t looking for people like us activists – or if they were, it shows that they can target people for no reason at all and our civil liberties are in danger.”

Several sources said that officers also raided three squats in Paris – and more across the country – seizing computers, documents and personal effects.

Thousands of climate campaigners, including Vandana Shiva, have vowed to defy the blanket ban on demonstrations. One protest on Sunday will be protected by a ‘human chain’, while a day of civil disobedience will take place when the summit ends on 12 December, dubbed as ‘red lines’ day.

Numbers are expected to be smaller than previously hoped, but artists have been working around the clock on creations such as a series of ‘inflatable cobble stones’, alluding to a famous slogan from the May 1968 protests: Beneath the cobble stones the beach.

Some protesters argue that the permission granted to football matches, trade fairs and Christmas markets in Paris over the summit period suggests that the authorities’ real concern is to suppress dissent.

“We are trying to find grey areas in the law,” said John Jordan, a prominent activist. “At the moment, a demonstration is legally defined as more than two people who share a political message. We are trying to find creative ways around these laws.”

During recent protests by Quebec students, participant numbers were kept to below 50 on each march, to avoid a prohibition order.

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