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Everything you need to know about the climate mobilisations in Paris

World governments are about to meet in Paris to negotiate a global agreement on climate change. But the real action will be in the streets, says Kara Moses

November 18, 2015
14 min read

Kara MosesKara Moses is Red Pepper's Environment Editor and a freelance writer and activist

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After the spectacular failure of the last high-profile climate summit in Copenhagen, some important lessons have been learned about what to expect from UN climate negotiations. This time round, the climate movement is united in its lack of faith in the broken, corporate-sponsored process.

This time, it’s not about trying to influence an outcome from the corporate-sponsored circus, but to reclaim this moment to bring diverse struggles together and create a stronger, bigger, more determined movement for climate justice to take bold action together in 2016. To go beyond the naive and damaging last-chance-to-save-the-world fanfare and reframe the public narrative of climate change from a middle class concern for drowning polar bears to a systemic issue of global justice

And, since the horrific attacks in Beirut, Baghdad and Paris last week, to stand up for peace and in solidarity with the people affected most by both the climate crisis and the wars that are so bound up with it — migrants, refugees, poor people, and people of colour. To highlight the systemic links between climate change, mass migration, fossil fuel dependency, inequality, terrorism and war. A system which allows, perversely, some of the richest to now rake in the profits from the tragedies of last week, supplying the violent retaliation effort with the weapons needed to fuel the ongoing spiral of violence. Weapons bought by governments who claim there is not enough money in the bank to support the most vulnerable members of their society. Governments who deny refuge to the people fleeing the violence they have helped to create.

Because whether we like it or not, the world’s attention will be on Paris in December. And we can use this stage to denounce the inevitably inadequate deal the negotiators will make – and then claim to be a success. This time around, we will have the final word. And you can be a part of it.

What’s happening during the summit and how can I get involved?

A huge number of actions and events are being planned to take place in Paris and around the world during the two weeks of the summit. The conference itself runs from 30 November – 11 December in Le Bourget, an airport 15km north of Paris. Yes, that’s right, an airport

If you’re feeling lost, a good place to start in Paris to find out information and get involved would be one of the convergence spaces. The main one thus far confirmed is the Climate Action Zone (ZAC), open from 7-11 December. This will be a hub for daily updates from the COP, action planning, trainings, workshops and general assemblies. From early November, Jardin d’Alice will be a large art-action space for building tools for the marches and actions (such as giant inflatables and banners), hosting the Climate Games (see below) and a 500-person kitchen. The Cinaxe is a space for art activism trainings and activist ‘speed dating’ – linking people up to form affinity groups rather than romance. Place to B is holding a space for alternative storytelling for media and blogger types, and Eroles will be holding a creative space for arts-activism collaboration between people with different approaches and perspectives, with meditation, workshops, art, creative action and more.

On the weekend at the start of the summit (28-29 November), there will be there will be mass marches all over the world, including London, New York, Paris, Berlin and others. The London march is on 29 November with smaller local marches in other cities including Cardiff and Edinburgh on the 28th (though Belfast will march on the 29th).

This same weekend Paris will also see the arrival of ‘ZAD’ (Zone a Défendre, or zone to defend) convoy-marches of tractors, bikes and people on foot from land struggles all over France (and possibly Europe) for a mass convergence and banquet. The ‘ZAD’ is a long-term occupation of a forest earmarked for a contested mega-airport in northwest France – which the government has announced it intends to evict after the summit to allow building to begin. However the term ‘ZAD’ is increasingly being used to refer to various land struggles across France, including sites being defended against nuclear developments and large dam projects.

The opening day of the COP (Monday 30) will see the opening round of the Climate Games, an innovative form of playful political engagement taking the form of a real-world ‘Disobedient Action Adventure Game’. Trialed in Amsterdam coal port this summer, it is essentially a framework to allow for diverse tactics – such as civil disobedience, theatre, art and direct action – to be used together. Teams register, complete their stunts and actions, and submit photos and action reports to the website to be awarded points and prizes for innovation, courage and creativity. The opening round has a focus on greenwashing. Teams can also play in between the rounds. There will be a map of potential targets on the website soon but if you need some inspiration in the meantime, there are some ‘places of interest’ here.

This day will also be a global day of action for students, with students of all ages encouraged to skip school as part of a global Climate Strike, and organise an action for climate justice.

Solutions COP21 is a sideshow event to the official summit, running from 4-10 December in central Paris and exhibiting ‘products, services, processes and innovations’ for addressing climate change. With corporations able to pay large sums of money for a space in the COP21 summit itself if they exhibit within the ‘solutions’ expo, it is more of a greenwash pantomime of false solutions and a perfect target for action. Get there before the 4th to get ready for mass action.

The middle weekend (5-6 December) will see the People’s Climate Summit – a down-to-earth alternative to the political circus playing out in Le Bourget, with debates, workshops, screenings, and a Village of Alternatives. There will also be a Global Critical Mass bike ride on 5 December.

Other actions include: the Pinocchio Awards ceremony for dirty corporations on the 3rd; an International Tribunal for the rights of Nature on the 4th; a day of action on food sovereignty and TTIP on the 9th, as well as a participative Art Not Oil performance protest in the oil-sponsored Louvre; and day of fracking action on the 10th.

The talks are scheduled to end on 11 December, but historically have always overrun, so are actually expected to finish on the 12th – hence the 11th/12th as the focus for mobilisation. Saturday 12, or ‘D12’ as it has been dubbed, will be the main day for mass mobilisation and is expected to go down in history.

Friends of the Earth International are planning an evening with speakers and music at Place de le Republique on the 11th, and the closing round of the Climate Games will be on 11/12 December.

Plans are coming together for what could be the largest act of climate disobedience ever, in the form of ‘Red Lines’ which will encircle the summit, organised by an unprecedented coalition of NGOs, trade unions, youth, faith, and grassroots groups (Coalition Climat 21, or CC21). The red lines represent minimum limits for a just and liveable planet, that the negotiators will inevitably cross in their death-sentence deal.

At sunrise on D12, we will occupy public spaces around Le Bourget with huge inflatable red lines, farmers with tractors, wind turbines and solar panels, Occupy-esque tent villages, and thousands of determined people. At the same time, around the world red lines will appear on targets for action in 2016 – sites of fossil fuel extraction, infrastructure and affected communities. The action will be peaceful and avoid escalation (though it is always impossible to predict how the police will respond), making it accessible for people who have never taken civil disobedience before but want to take bold action at this crucial moment. We will end at 12.12, turn our backs on Le Bourget and head to La Republique to join the rally. Plan to be in Paris by noon on the 11th at the very latest for final briefings, non-violent civil disobedience trainings and key information on where to go in the morning. The ZAC will be one of a number of spaces these will be held. Keep an eye on for updates.

For those not comfortable with the idea of civil disobedience, a rally will also be held in central Paris on D12. Details are still being worked out, but current thinking is that blocs will march from different locations, carrying red lines representing different themes, to join a giant human chain around Place de la Republique and create a ‘Grand Clamor’ with drums, bells and sirens sounding. Representatives from affected communities will sing and speak before plans are made for an unprecedented year of action in 2016. The whole day will close with a clear link between all of the actions in Paris and around the world.

After having the final word and having made big plans for 2016, there will be a celebration and Climate Games Award Ceremony on Sunday 13th. Check the Climate Games website for updates and don’t miss the party!

Sounds great! How do I get there?

You can of course book your own transport but there are organised transport options that allow you to meet and travel together with fellow activists, and feel part of the mass movement.

A number of NGOs are working together to provide Eurostar ‘climate trains to Paris for the final weekend (11-13 December). Reclaim the Power and People and Planet have teamed up to organise affordable coaches on 5 and 9 December, returning on the 13th or 14th for those wanting to go for longer.

Some people are cycling to Paris, with bike trains coming from all over Europe. Two are leaving from London – Time to Cycle is a five-day ride, and Climate Kilometre is a three-day ride that joins the journey of two people running and cycling from the North and South poles to Paris (and they’re not the only ones!). Both rides join a mass cycle on D12 and return to London by train on the 13th.

But where will I stay?

CC21 has been negotiating for months with the local authorities to provide large accommodation spaces for free or a small donation. However the authorities are currently not delivering on their promises – you can sign a petition here to tell them to get their act together. CC21 is also facilitating various homestay options, with people in Paris willing to host activists travelling from afar. Keep an eye on the CC21 and Climate Justice Action (CJA, a large international coalition of grassroots groups) websites for updates as they emerge.

Reclaim the Power are working with autonomous groups in Paris to organise free/cheap (donations welcome) squatted accommodation – you can reserve your space here. You can book a free place in a gym or pay for a hostel bed for the final weekend through Friends of the Earth or Global Justice Now. UK students can book free accommodation with People and Planet. You can of course also book your own accommodation. There is a list of hostels and hotels that provide beds for under 30 euros a night that you can book yourself here.

What about food?

Mass catering kitchens are coming from across France to feed the tens of thousands of people expected to descend on Paris during the summit. Some giant pots that can hold soup for 1,000 people and take two hours to boil are being specially made! Details are still being worked out but it’s likely that there will be a few locations for eating en masse, with payment by donation. There’ll be a constant need for help cooking and washing – a great way to be useful and meet new friends. Just turn up.

How can I prepare?

There are trainings and preparation events popping up all over the country where you can get skilled up, find out information and meet other people who are going. Reclaim the Power are holding info nights and trainings in London and Manchester and weekly meetings in London and Manchester.

What about after Paris?

We all know that what happens within the walls of Le Bourget will not bring the solutions we need. Paris is only a springboard for escalation of climate justice action in 2016. There are already big plans for mass mobilisations in 2016, with callouts for a year of action and a global shut down of fossil fuel infrastructure in the Spring already generating excitement. More plans and ideas will come out of the assemblies and discussions held in the Red Lines blockades and rally on D12.

Where can I go for updates and more information?

As plans develop they will be put out on the CC21, CJA, Red Lines, Climate Games and websites.

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Kara MosesKara Moses is Red Pepper's Environment Editor and a freelance writer and activist

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