By Ducky Slowcode
Paris, France — In light of the 21st and most recent UN Conference of the Parties, the annual gathering to discuss and renegotiate global progress in climate change policy, thousands of activists from every corner of the globe converged on Paris to make their voices heard. While the heads of state of 196 different countries came together in La Bourget, a conference center just outside of Paris, delegations and individuals from climate advocacy groups, frontline organizations, and civil society groups made their presence known across the city. I had the opportunity to visit Paris and represent direct action eco-defense on Turtle Island, as well as connect with and support friends (both old and new) in bringing their campaigns to France, the land of so-called “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” (“Liberty, Equality and Brotherhood”).The climate talks, as to be expected, were a total failure. Negotiations were held up in large part by the United States and Saudi Arabia, both of which have a vested interest in the continuation of our global addiction to fossil fuels. Saudi Arabia in particular has a history of working to water down or entirely dissolve global climate talks in an attempt to maintain its standing as one of the top oil-producing countries in the world. Likewise, the USA, whose military is the single largest emissions producer in the world and an intimidating global presence, and whose rich history of human rights violations would entirely derail this article were I to get into them, stood to lose a lot in the negotiations, and fought to remove human rights provisions from the finalized agreements. The finished product has the member nations agreeing to hold global temperature increase to “2°C…and efforts to limit…to 1.5°C”, but provides no measures for accountability to this figure. Rather, the agreement holds member nations to a “facilitative, non-intrusive, non-punitive” framework. This is not the climate policy we need from global “leaders”, but I can’t say I’m surprised. Global governance has no teeth when it comes to caring for the planet.
Expecting this sort of agreement from world leaders, the organizations on the ground outside the conference planned to have the last say. Despite the state of emergency enacted in Paris after a night of deadly terrorist attacks in November, activists and organizers planned multiple public events throughout the conference, culminating in a massive march and rally on December 12th (D12). The “Red Lines” protest was put together by CoalitionClimat21, a coalition that included groups such as 350.org, Avaaz, OxFam, and the WWF, as well as several smaller organizations representing a wide variety of causes. The Red Lines theme was a symbol for the “lines in the sand” in the climate struggle that we cannot afford to cross, the minimum acceptable conditions to provide a habitable planet, and was visually demonstrated by a 105m-long red banner, carried amongst a crowd of over 15,000 people dressed in red. Touted in promotions and in media coverage as being a bold move in a city that had banned public gatherings, this action was quickly called a victory by the mainstream climate movement; in my eyes, it was anything but that. In fact, the Red Lines protest completely sold out. The organizers of the action negotiated with the French government and police in order to stage this event. While initially intended to circle La Bourget, the culmination of this action instead circled the Champ de Mars, a park next to the Eiffel Tower, while participants were subjected to police scrutiny and bag searches in order to even get into the park. Talk about bold action in the face of repression!
It is for this reason that I declare the “climate movement”, so called by 350.org, Avaaz, and their kind, as dead. Yet again, those of us on the frontlines of climate struggle, the indigenous land defenders, the people of color fighting police brutality, racism, and gentrification in toxic cities, the eco-warriors who put their lives on the line to defend forests, mountains, and swamps have been led astray by our own complacent “vanguard”. We cannot continue to expect anything from groups who are willing to negotiate with the state. We don’t have time for that. Militarism and climate imperialism are the driving forces behind a climate refugee situation with a death toll that is rising fast. State repression is forcing back real progress towards racial, social, and environmental liberation. Economic and social barriers are preventing poor neighborhoods from actualizing self-reliance and community resilience. “Climate justice”, a term that is so watered down as to be almost pointless by now, will NEVER come from making deals with the same forces that benefit from ecocide and oppression. The red lines we’re not supposed to cross? Big Green NGOs just threw them aside. Worst of all, we are bringing new people into this movement with the promises of change through these avenues, and we are imbuing the climate youth of today, the activist leaders of tomorrow, with a sense of oblivious optimism. Amidst chants of “We are unstoppable, another world is possible”, the world we currently inhabit is being bulldozed and our actions, protests, and voices are being surveilled, repressed, and silenced.