'No Planet B', marchers worldwide tell leaders before UN climate summit

Hundreds of thousands of people from Australia to Paraguay joined the biggest day of climate change activism in history on Sunday, telling world leaders gathering for a summit in Paris there is "No Planet B" in the fight against global warming.
Channel NewsAsia 29 Oct 15;

PARIS/PERTH, Australia: Hundreds of thousands of people from Australia to Paraguay joined the biggest day of climate change activism in history on Sunday, telling world leaders gathering for a summit in Paris there is "No Planet B" in the fight against global warming.

In the French capital, where demonstrations were banned by the authorities after attacks by Islamic State militants killed 130 people on Nov. 13, activists laid out more than 20,000 shoes in the Place de la Republique to symbolize absent marchers on the eve of the summit.

Among the high heels and sandals were a pair of plain black shoes sent by Pope Francis, who has been a vocal advocate for action to prevent dangerous climate change, and jogging shoes from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

One activist, dressed in white as an angel with large wings, held a sign saying "coal kills". About 10,000 people joined arms to form a human chain through Paris along the 3-km (2-mile) route of the banned march, organisers said.

More than 2,000 events were held in cities including London, Sao Paulo, New York and Asuncion, Paraguay, on the eve of the Paris summit which runs from Nov. 30-Dec. 11 and will be attended by about 150 heads of government.

"Over 570,000 people called with one voice for global leaders to deliver a 100 percent clean energy future at the Paris summit," said Emma Ruby-Sachs, campaign director of Avaaz, one of the organisers.

Around the world, activists marched, dressed as polar bears or penguins at risk from melting ice, or chanted slogans such as "climate justice".

Organisers said that 570,000 people so far had taken part in rallies worldwide and that they expected demonstrations including in Ottawa and Mexico City later in the day to push the count above 600,000.

"These are the biggest set of global marches in history," said Sam Barratt at Avaaz.

There was no independent verification of the numbers, although none of the individual marches rivalled one in New York last year that drew an estimated 310,000 people.


In Sydney, about 45,000 people are estimated to have marched through the central business district towards the Opera House. Protesters held placards reading: “There is no Planet B,” and “Say no to burning national forests for electricity”.

In London, organisers said 50,000 marchers were joined by fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, actress Emma Thompson and opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who said the turnout was especially impressive for a wet November Sunday.

Almost all the demonstrations were peaceful, but riot police fired tear gas and clashed with about 200 protesters in Paris, some wearing masks, in the Place de la Republique.

Police detained 149 people for questioning. French President Francois Hollande criticised the protests as scandalous amid the candles and flowers left on the square in memory of the 130 killed on Nov. 13.

The demonstrators had carried banners calling for the defence of the climate and democracy.

U.S. President Barack Obama and China's Xi Jinping will be among the leaders attending the start of the summit, which organisers hope will produce a legally binding agreement to commit both rich and developing nations to curbing emissions of greenhouse gases, blamed for warming the planet, beyond 2020.

Hopes are high that the Paris summit will not fail like the previous such meeting six years ago in Copenhagen.

Popular and political momentum for tougher action on carbon emissions has accelerated in recent years, with 2015 set to be the warmest on record. Activists are seeking to combat everything from Beijing’s smoggy skies to Canada’s Keystone oil pipeline.

Saiba Suso, a 26-year-old demonstrator in Paris, said the poor were most at risk: "We are paying the price and we are not the cause. The industrialised countries owe us a lot."

Still, all sides say pledges made in Paris will be insufficient to limit a rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, widely viewed as a threshold for dangerous changes in the planet's climate system.

(Additional reporting by Michael Shields in Vienna, Elizabeth Piper in London, Gareth Jones and Paul Taylor in Paris, Elizabeth Piper in London, Morag MacKinnon in Perth, writing by Alister Doyle; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Hugh Lawson)

- Reuters

COP21: Poor countries fear being 'left behind' in rush for deal
Matt McGrath BBC News 30 Nov 15;

A critical UN conference aimed at agreeing a new global approach to climate change is set to open in Paris.

The meeting, known as COP21, will see negotiators from 195 countries attempt to finalise a new treaty over the next two weeks.

Political leaders from 147 countries will address the conference throughout Monday.

But the poorest countries say they fear being "left behind" in the push to agree a deal.

The French government will officially take over the running of the talks during the opening ceremony on Monday.

Thousands march for climate change

Police have locked down the conference centre in Le Bourget, closing roads in the area amid strict security for the leaders' visit.

Presidents and prime ministers will address the gathering amid a growing sense of optimism that an agreement can be secured.

"It will be the turning point, which is what the world requires," said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius at a news conference over the weekend. Mr Fabius will chair the conference until it reaches a conclusion.

Boost for solar

The leaders, who will only stay at the meeting for one day, are likely to make a number of significant announcements during the day to boost the fight against rising temperatures.

France and India will announce a global alliance that aims to bring together 100 solar-rich countries in tropical regions to rapidly expand the availability of electricity from the Sun.

There are also expected to be announcements on funding for renewable energy research.

But among the warm words and good intentions, there are growing concerns among the very poorest countries that their interests might be sacrificed in the clamour for compromise.

Most of the discussions here will revolve around a new deal that would limit global warming to 2C.

Assessments of the more than 180 national plans that have been submitted by countries suggest that if they were implemented the world would see a rise of nearer to 3C.

However, the 48 members of the least developed countries (LDC) group at these talks say that for them, anything more than 1.5 degrees would be catastrophic.

"For the LDCs, economic development, regional food security, ecosystems, and the very survival of their populations and livelihoods are at risk if talks aim only for a 2C world," said Giza Gaspar Martins from Angola.

"The heads of state will be in Paris to set the tone for the negotiations. We renew our call for an ambitious, robust and binding climate deal that does not leave behind the most vulnerable among us."

While the arrival of the leaders will give a significant boost to the conference, the practical difficulties of securing a deal have not gone away.

'Differentiation' issue

At present the negotiating text runs to more than 50 pages of dense text, filled with brackets, indicating disagreement.

Teams of negotiators actually began the work on Sunday conscious of the fact that so many issues remain unresolved.

The hope is that, by the end of this week, a new draft agreement will be ready for environment ministers to haggle over during the second half of the conference.
One of the biggest differences is said to be over what's termed "differentiation" in the talks.

The US and other wealthy countries object to the fact that in these negotiations, a country is determined to be developed or developing based on its wealth when this body was formed back in 1992.

They argue that any new deal must accurately reflect the current position, meaning that a larger number of countries would have to share the burden of cutting carbon.

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