Diplomats praise decision to hold Paris climate talks; outside events may be cancelled

[From Climate Action Network]: Lisa Friedman, E&E reporter

Published: Monday, November 16, 2015

Climate change leaders from around the world are applauding the
French government’s decision to press on with a landmark U.N.
conference in Paris at the end of the month, even in the wake of
deadly terrorist attacks.

But just how robust the event will be is still unclear. Early today,
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls told a radio station that only the
negotiations themselves will take place and not the “concerts and
festivities” planned around it. The U.N. talks were expected to draw
some 40,000 people to Paris.

The death toll from Friday’s carnage — when gunmen, some armed with
AK-47s, opened fire on a Paris concert hall, stormed popular
restaurants and set off explosions at a packed soccer stadium — rose
to 129 by last night. The Islamic State group has claimed
responsibility. French President François Hollande declared the
attacks “an act of war” and vowed revenge.

Diplomats from New Zealand to the Maldives said they believe the
vicious assaults on ordinary citizens are precisely the reason the
21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the U.N. climate
convention must still convene as planned. U.S. President Obama and
Secretary of State John Kerry will be among nearly 120 heads of state

“COP 21 has to take place; otherwise, it would mean being weak and
scared by terrorism, which would be for them an additional victory,”
Pascal Canfin, France’s former minister of development, told

Agreed Jeffrey Waheed, deputy permanent representative of the
Maldives to the United Nations, “We cannot acquiesce to brutality. It
is important that terror attacks don’t dissuade us from what’s most
important to the international community.”

The two weeks of talks begin Nov. 30 and will take place at Le
Bourget airfield on the outskirts of Paris. They are expected to
culminate in a new international agreement to lower greenhouse gas
emissions and possibly put in place a system by which nearly 200
countries can regularly enact new and stronger climate targets.

The conference is important to France both economically and
politically. The government has already invested €170 million ($182
million) — about 20 percent of it raised from private funds,
according to the COP 21 website. Leaders hope the 20,000 people
accredited for the conference and an additional 20,000 more expected
for other events throughout Paris will bring in €100 million to the
region in hotel and restaurant spending.

‘No, no, no, no, no’

Meanwhile, the agreement itself is viewed as a critical political win
for Hollande as well as Obama. Both leaders have expended massive
amounts of political capital on the Paris agreement, raising the
issue at nearly every bilateral meeting.

That’s partially why, analysts said, less than a day after the
attacks, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius reacted quickly when
asked if the climate talks would be canceled.

“No, no, no, no, no, the COP 21 [is] to be held. It will be held with
enhanced security measures, but it is absolutely essential action
against climate change, and of course it will be held,” Fabius told
reporters in remarks reported by Climate Home.

While a handful of people, most notably former French President
Nicolas Sarkozy, raised concerns about the decision, most people in
the global climate community praised it. Sarkozy, who early yesterday
said going forward with COP 21 “would mean taking unbelievable
risks,” did not ultimately call for a postponement, according to the
French press.

“I can fully understand the reasons behind the decision,” said Jo
Tyndall, New Zealand’s climate change ambassador. “This [COP 21] has
been hugely important to France. Postponing it would send, I imagine,
the sort of signal they would not want to send to those responsible
for these attacks.”

Ronny Jumeau, ambassador to the United Nations from the Seychelles,
said he was hoping French leaders would press forward. He argued that
bringing 40,000 people to fight in negotiating halls and on the
streets for a safer atmosphere is exactly what the world should be
seeing in Paris.

“It also sends a message to the people behind the attacks. The world
is not going to stop for you,” he said.

Marches, side events in limbo

Yet while the negotiations themselves are expected to continue, it
remains unclear whether the dozens of events happening on the
sidelines of the summit will still occur. Iain Keith, a senior
campaigner with Avaaz.org, which is helping to coordinate a massive
march through Paris on Nov. 29, said his team will meet tomorrow.

“In all honestly, it’s pretty much the police’s call now. The most
important thing for us is safety,” he said. “We will follow the
police’s lead.”

And Lisa Jacobson, president of the Business Council for Sustainable
Energy, said industry leaders hope to still be on hand in Paris but
are willing to dial back their participation if new security measures
call for it.

“Our delegation is prepared to go, provided that’s what the French
government and the U.N. and the State Department think is the right
thing to do. We want to be constructive in a time of crisis,” she

In his remarks to RTL Radio, according to Reuters, Valls said “a
series of demonstrations planned will not take place and it will be
reduced to the negotiations … a lot of concerts and festivities
will be canceled.”

Residents described Paris yesterday as a city on edge and restless in
its mourning. Outside the cafes that were the site of fear Friday
night, flowers were piled high. Meanwhile, streets and restaurants
that had been emptied out a day earlier once again sprang back to
life as people decided they could no longer stay indoors out of fear.

Keith, who has been working in Paris the past months to prepare for
the march, said the sun was out yesterday afternoon and he was
finally taking a walk.

On Friday, he had been with a group of activists attending former
U.S. Vice President Al Gore’s 24-hour live climate webcast from the
foot of the Eiffel Tower. Then he went to dinner near the Place de la
République with friends. The main course had just arrived when shots
rang out. People started to run, but Keith said he reacted slowly.

A city on edge

“We were about to run and the barman grabbed us and said, ‘Get
inside,'” he said. They ran downstairs and hid in the bathroom with
about 15 others for an hour. Keith said that of the 20 or so local
and international climate activists working on activities related to
the upcoming U.N. climate conference in Paris, none were killed or

“Amazingly, miraculously, they’re all accounted for. But everyone is
shocked and has been touched by this,” he said.

He and others said they hope the climate march will still go on and
be even larger than expected in the face of the attacks.

“I think the march will go on. And it is indeed possible that people
will use the march to express their solidarity with the victims and
their desire for a more peaceful world,” said Wendel Trio, director
of Climate Action Network Europe.

Jumeau said he thinks signing a global climate change accord that
keeps countries like his safe from the threat of rising seas and
addresses the resource depletion that military leaders say help
foster extremism would do the same.

“It’s been a very long and frustrating and painful journey at times,
and finally we have an agreement in our sight,” he said. “Let us
leave with something positive this Christmas and New Year. Something
positive for climate change and the world in the face of terrorism.”