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Turn Up the Heat Locally, Urge Climate Groups Following Cancellation of Marquee Paris March

Concurrent marches planned in cities across the world during COP21 have now taken on added significance

It’s final: The November 29 marquee climate march in Paris has been cancelled.

A week ago (November 17) we reported climate change activists saying that they would press on with a major march in Paris on November 29 despite the French government’s decision to suspend the march for security reasons following the November 13 terrorist attacks. French officials had first said that the organizers could have a stationary rally instead with only 5,000 people in attendance. (The long-planned march, similar to the People’s Climate March in New York last year, was expected to draw as many as 200,000 people.)

Photo of NYC People’s Climate March Photo by Climate Action Network International Climate groups have decided that there was no way to hold the Paris climate march without putting people’s lives at risk.

Apart from the climate march, other planned demonstrations included a “People’s Summit” on December 5 and 6 and civil disobedience actions on the last day of the talks.

But on Wednesday (November 18), after a police raid of an apartment building in a Paris suburb that left two suspected terrorists dead, Paris police cancelled all outdoor demonstrations during COP21. Given the extreme security threat, climate groups finally figured that there was no way to hold the march without putting people’s lives at risk.

The development has, of course, been a huge disappointment for climate and civil society activists who have been scrambling to put together alternative plans. "We realize the gravity of the situation, but now more than ever, we need to find creative ideas to call on people to unite around climate action,” Juliette Rousseau, coordinator of the Coalition Climat 21, an umbrella group of more than 130 civil society groups that’s been coordinating the mobilizations, said in a statement. "There is no COP21 without mobilizing civil society." 

So far it seems that the Citizens Climate Summit to be held on December 5 and 6 in Montreuil (Seine Saint-Denis) and the Action Zone Climate (ZAC), to be held from December 7 to 11 at Paris-CENTQUATRE will go forward as planned. These mobilizations will be two great opportunities to demonstrate that civil society is fighting for and implementing solutions to climate change, and determined to fight against the climate crisis. The Climate Generations Space adjacent to the formal conference center at Le Bourget, too, will be open, albeit with increased security.

Meanwhile, the concurrent marches planned in cities across the world on November 28 and 29 have now taken on added significance. As author and activist Bill McKibben said in an emailed letter to supporters last week:

“The problem is global warming, we have a global movement, and now we need to show it. Next weekend, when we would have been marching in Paris, we need everyone who is not there marching everywhere else. It's going to be a test of our nimbleness…”

If you have wondered what you could do for the people of Paris — well, there are 400,000 or so of them who wanted to march for climate action next weekend. You can march on their behalf, and in the process help build some kind of hope. The world needs that now more than ever.” 

So far, more than 2,173 events are going ahead in more than 150 countries, including 57 marches in major world cities including Washington DC, Los Angeles, London, Tokyo and New Delhi. (Check here to see if there's a march near you.)

The core climate negotiations are scheduled to continue as planned. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry will be attending the UN conference, along with some 116 other world leaders and 20,000 to 40,000 delegates. Most activists, too, have stayed steady with their plans to show up in Paris during the talks.

“[Even] if we are kept from the streets, I am confident we will be able to let the government leaders know our demands and can find ways to win the hearts and minds of the people of Paris,” says Pam Tau Lee, a San Francisco Bay Area-based peace movement veteran who will be traveling to Paris as part of the It Takes Roots delegation. “Our movement grows out of love and compassion and no state of emergency will keep the people from building and strengthening the work. Time and time again, it is has been proven that people and not governments make the peace. With this in mind, I leave for Paris with hope, commitment, love, and clarity.”

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