Taking action in Paris at COP21
We're now facing a climate crisis. I felt it was important to go to Paris because I feared that the climate negotiations (or COP21) would not be sufficient to meet this crisis. I've been led to take action on climate change because it's an issue so inextricably linked to other things I care about, like challenging militarism and upholding refugee and asylum seeker rights.
The action I joined in Paris was the first climate action I'd been on for quite a long time. Going to Copenhagen – where the climate talks were held in 2009 – and being at Canterbury Yearly Meeting in 2011, were two really big moments in my climate activism journey. This felt like the third.
Changing the plans
The original plan to surround the negotiations was cancelled due to the state of emergency declared following the attacks in Paris in November. The 150 organisations mobilising for the action partly decided to change the plan because they spoke to community groups in the predominately Muslim area where the negotiations were being held, who asked them to avoid causing a greater police presence in the community.
So there was a lot of uncertainty about what was going to happen when I arrived in Paris.
I've been led to take action on climate change because it's an issue so inextricably linked to other things I care about, like challenging militarism and upholding refugee and asylum seeker rights.- Owen Everett
I went to the Climate Action Zone, where groups were meeting to talk and organise throughout the COP. There we learnt about Plan B – to shut down the road between the Arc de Triomphe and La Defence by forming a human red line, meant to symbolise the line we fear governments will cross if they do not start taking sufficient action on climate change.
Until just before the action, the police's position was that they would not authorise the protest, so there was a risk of getting arrested. My friends and I talked together about our willingness to take that risk, and decided we felt strongly enough to go ahead.
In the end, the police authorised the action just beforehand, which was partly reassuring and partly frustrating. Frustrating because an act of civil disobedience, which thousands had committed to take part in, can be more powerful.
Bringing our message to the city
But the atmosphere was amazing. Activists from around the world, all wearing red to line the street, singing, chanting and holding their banners (some of which were almost one km long!).
The highlight of the day for me was deciding to walk together to the Eiffel Tower, blocking the traffic and bringing our messages to the city. We ended up sitting next to the Eiffel Tower surrounded by police, but the atmosphere was calm and celebratory.
It felt right to be there and I'm really glad I was part of it. I hope it has an impact, but know the struggle continues. Energised by being in Paris, I want to continue taking action next year.