On 'D12', we will draw our red lines in Paris

John Jordan writes on the climate justice movement's call for mass disobedience in Paris on 12 December, and beyond

November 10, 2015
6 min read

redlines1

Illustrations: Elsa Salonen

Two months ago I was running through the deep sand of an open-cast coal mine. I was running for life – for life everywhere – and I was being chased by German riot police. But I wasn’t alone. There were 1,500 of us and we had all pledged to non-violently block the gargantuan excavators with our bodies, thus shutting down Europe’s largest source of CO2 emissions for a day.

The action was named ‘Ende Gelände’ (‘Here and no further’), and we succeeded in what was one of the largest acts of direct action against fossil fuels ever in Europe. In that apocalyptic lifeless landscape we drew a line in the sand: if you, the toxic blend of governments and corporations, don’t stop digging the fossil fuels out of the ground, something all the climate science warns us we have to do now and not later, then we will do it for you.

Galvanised by the inspiration of that day, I’m now living in Paris, co-organising with numerous collectives acts of civil disobedience that will take place during the UN climate summit.

According to France’s president, Francois Hollande, ‘In December 2015, just like in 1789 when the French Revolution gave great hope to the world, history can be written in Paris, this time for the future of the planet.’ But in the same breath his government has admitted that if an agreement is signed it won’t limit warming to 2 degrees, the safe threshold after which the climate could tip into irreversible chaos.

It seems the future Hollande speaks is one where corporations continue businesses as usual. What we, the climate and broader social justice movements, have to do is to stop the war on the poor that is the climate catastrophe – and that’s going to mean all of us stepping out of line, everywhere. Paris is a world stage where we could show our capacity to do this.

The world’s governments have been talking for 20 years: in that time, CO2 emissions have increased 63 per cent and misery continues for those affected now by the wrecked climate. The process has been a total failure – unsurprising, given that the corporate takeover of the climate discourse goes to the centre of the UN summit.

redlines2

The French government has chosen a handful of climate criminals to sponsor the talks. They include car manufacturers Renault and Nissan, airline Air France who blocked an EU carbon tax on aviation, mega-coal project funders BNP bank, fracking lobbyists Suez Environment, and EDF, which infamously tried to sue 21 climate activists who occupied its new gas power station in Nottinghamshire. The only revolution coming from inside the talks is the turning around in circles of endless discussions.

But outside, things are moving in unique directions that give a lot more hope for life on earth. A day of action has been called for 12 December (‘D12’), just as the two weeks of talks come to an end. It is the first time such a diverse coalition has called for civil disobedience. Over 150 organisations, from big NGOs to trade unions, faith groups to radical collectives, are supporting the actions. The rallying cry is ‘We will have the last word’ – and that word will be written with our disobedient bodies. The line in the sand drawn in in the mine during Ende Gelände will turn red on D12, when thousands of people will encircle the summit with red lines. Red lines that are the minimal necessities for a just and liveable planet. Red lines that will inevitably be crossed by the talks.

Imagine: the final UN plenary is reaching its conclusion. Outside, the city grinds to a halt as thousands occupy the streets, encircling the conference centre. Some have come with wind turbines, solar panels, bikes and mobile gardens, to represent the future they want to see, others are setting up tents Occupy-style. Farmers from the frontlines of France’s biggest anti-airport struggle are lining up their tractors alongside frontline communities from the disappearing Pacific islands. Everyone is calm but determined, refusing to be moved.

At the same time, around France, Europe, worldwide, the ‘red lines’ meme appears everywhere, drawn along proposed oil pipeline routes, scrawled in villages threatened with airport expansion, stretched across the entrances of institutions that refuse to divest from fossil fuels, marking the fields were fracking rigs are planned. These lines can show where further disobedience will take place in the spring of 2016, when the movements have made a global call for fossil fuel infrastructure shutdown.

If all goes to plan it could be the largest act of climate disobedience in Europe, and the world’s media focus will shift away from the empty words of the negotiations towards the movement’s actions. Buses and trains full of people from across the continent are booked to arrive in Paris that weekend. Meetings and non-violent direct action trainings are taking place in cities far and wide, and, as I write, some ingeniously creative forms of disobedience are being dreamt up.

After all, it was in Paris – a city whose streets have shaped our collective imaginary of revolutions for 300 years – that the art of the barricade was invented. A new form of barricade for the 21st century is being prepared by the art activist collective Tools for Action. They will be teaching people to build hundreds of gigantic playful inflatable cubes, some 3m square, which will help draw the red lines around the summit whilst protecting the crowds and replacing confrontation with the authorities with confusion.

Who knows what will happen on D12? The only thing we can be sure is that it won’t be business as usual – you will kick yourself for years to come if you don’t take part.

Be in Paris by noon on Friday 11 December for briefings and non-violent civil disobedience training. For more information see this presentation and d12.paris


✹ Try our new pay-as-you-feel subscription — you choose how much to pay.

Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports

On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.

Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns

The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections

In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines

Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.

West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective

How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences

The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally

Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change

Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces

Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'

Confronting Brexit
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond

On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network

Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter

#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement

Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.

Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees

Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides

The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari

Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next

Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace

Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill


484