There were two different actions over the last few days in Paris, with the same underlying message: as we enter the so-called business end of the COP21 talks, there can be no more false solutions to climate change.
On Friday, despite the city-wide crackdown against protests, climate activists staged a “toxic tour” at the Grand Palais to protest against corporate sponsors of a greenwashing “COP21 Solutions” event.
In the Palais different energy companies, car manufacturers and others had paid up to Euros 250,000 to portray the false narrative that they have the solution to climate change.
The “toxic tour” of the Solutions event was organised by Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), Les Amis de la Terre France, Attac France (Officiel), Climate Justice Action, JEDIs, Solidaire and Friends of the Earth France, amongst others.
As the “toxic tour” started, the activists were firstly kettled and then detained by the police and security. There is disturbing footage of activists being evicted from the event by the on-site security and undercover police. Even journalists were evicted and those just listening to speeches.
One of those who was forcibly evicted was Pasco Sabido from CEO who argued he was protesting because the event gave “a huge platform to some of the most polluting companies in the world, such as Engie, formerly GDF Suez, and, and we’re not accepting this.”
Sabido continued: “These companies are having a huge impact not just on the climate, but our local environment and our communities. So we’re here to call them out, to reveal this greenwashing, and to really speak truth to power.”
Others pointed out the irony of having communities on the frontline against climate change who were there fighting the very companies sponsoring the COP. Ahmed Gaya, a climate activist said: “There are a number of folks here from frontline communities who have been battling some of the communities who are sponsoring COP21 and sponsoring this Solutions event”.
There was outrage at the heavy handed nature of the Police. “I did not come to France to be arrested for listening to opposing opinions on climate change”, said one person interviewed by 350.org. Outside, activists sang in French, “If you like Greenwashing, clap your hands”.
The heavy-handed response has drawn criticism from the likes of Naomi Klein. ““We have got unprecedented restrictions on civil society – they’ve handed a megaphone to the corporations and taken the megaphone away from the social movements,” she said.
One protest that did take place to the sound of drums and chanting yesterday was a gathering of First Nations from the Arctic to the Amazon who were demonstrating against continued fossil fuel use and the marginalisation of Indigenous people from the climate change talks. Some two dozen took to canoes and kayaks as part of the protest.
“It is key that we are here as indigenous communities because we are the frontline communities,” said Dallas Goldtooth, of the Mdewakanton Dakota and Dine peoples, “Our relationship to Mother Earth is being impacted, and our way to live our lives is being destroyed.”
“We are here to call upon the governments of the world that they must respect the rights of Indigenous peoples,” Faith Gimmel-Fredson, executive director of REDOIL and a member of the Neets’aii Gwich’in people, added. “No more false solutions. We don’t have time.”