In the wake of the Paris attacks, climate activists and the French government are at odds over plans for a massive protest march on Nov. 29 ahead of the UN climate talks. French authorities are threatening to curtail public demonstrations and marches, but climate activists insist the right to protest and freedom of speech must be upheld even during a state of emergency. We speak to Alix Mazounie, the international policies coordinator at Climate Action Network France.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We end today’s show in Paris by looking at the impact of Friday’s attacks on the upcoming UN climate change conference. Organizers from around the world have been planning demonstrations and actions throughout the two-week conference, including a massive march scheduled for November 29th, the day before the talks begin. As many as 200,000 people were expected to attend.
AMY GOODMAN: But now French authorities are threatening to curtail the public demonstrations and marches in the wake of Friday’s attacks. For more, we’re going directly to Paris to Alix Mazounie, the international policies coordinator at Climate Action Network France. On Tuesday, she was part of a meeting with the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, to discuss the ways the marches and demonstrations could go forward.
Alix, welcome to Democracy Now! What came of this meeting? And then, we would like to ask you to describe what the climate is like in Paris now.
ALIX MAZOUNIE: So, indeed, a number of NGOs met with our foreign affairs minister yesterday morning to discuss what could come out, you know, what kind of mobilizations would still be authorized, not just on November 29th, but also across both weeks of the COP, as many, many things were planned. And so, the signal, the political signal, he sent us was: “We want to maintain a form of public expression across both weeks. We’re looking into options. Obviously, the main concern is safety, safety of the French people, safety of all the people in the streets of Paris, internationals, nationals, who want to march on climate change and express themselves.”
So, I mean, he sent us an important political signal, but he is the minister of foreign affairs, not the minister in charge of safety concerns. So what we’re waiting for now is a definite response from the prime minister tonight or tomorrow morning to tell us exactly what form of that – you know, we hope that there will be a form of public expression and that the question is not whether or not there will be one, but which one it will be, taking into account all those security constraints.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And in terms of the situation with the borders and people who might be coming from other countries, coming into France, will there be increased difficulties, in that sense?
ALIX MAZOUNIE: So we were told that people with Schengen visas would still be able to get through the borders, and it was only a matter of security checks at the borders regularly, so people would have to have all their documents with them, but that normally, apart from a few extra challenges, it should not stop international groups from coming to Paris. And this is a very important signal of solidarity. We need them to be in Paris with us throughout the COP. We need them to march with us on the 29th. And we need them to support us also across the world, not just in Paris. We know that a number of marches will be organized, you know, in different places across all continents on November 28th and 29th, and we want them to march in solidarity with us, on our behalf and in our name. So we hope that the message will be sent across to everyone.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re speaking just hours after another raid on a Paris apartment, and this resulted in seven arrests and two people dead. It’s not clear how much more of these kind of actions will be going on. Why do you feel it is still important to march on November 29th, not to mention have actions throughout the two weeks of the climate summit?
ALIX MAZOUNIE: I think that the discussions that we’ve been having among French groups and with international groups is that, more than ever before, we need to tackle climate change. If there is one war that needs to be done, you know, and we have to go for it, it’s the war against climate change. And it will have impacts on many – on many other issues. It will increase social stability. It will make sure people have food in their stomachs. It will make sure people can live with they are and they don’t live in a climate of fear or social instability. So, in that context, we want a strong climate agreement in Paris. We want to make sure that more and more people mobilize on the issue of climate change, but, more generally, around solidarity, unity and peace, obviously, which are all very connected issues.
And, you know, the motto of the city of Paris, I don’t know exactly how to translate it into English, but it basically says, “We can cope with waves, but you know we will never, ever sink. We will stay afloat.” And I think this is also part of the message. More than ever, people across the world and in Paris need to stand up to say that they are fearless and that they want their right to public and democratic freedom of speech, and that climate change today is that one issue where we can express it. And that’s why we need people to mobilize across both weeks in Paris and across the world in solidarity with us.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And are you worried that the national leaders, now so much focused, after the horrible events of last week, on fighting terrorism, might not be as focused on the issue of the negotiations that occur at the summit?
ALIX MAZOUNIE: This is a major concern, indeed. We know that leaders are coming to Paris, but we’re not sure whether climate change will still be the one and only priority on their agenda, and understandably so. At the same time, as I said, climate change is a symptom, and the causes and consequences of climate change are connected to all of this terrorism. They’re fueling terrorism. They’re fueling the social instability, you know, the world of unrest in which we live today. So, to us, it makes complete sense to discuss, you know, even more so, why we need to tackle climate change, why we need a strong agreement in Paris, why we need strong climate action everywhere, solidarity, financial support from developed to developing countries, a vision with no fossil fuels in the picture, and a world where there are jobs being created thanks to renewable energy and energy efficiency. So, all of these issues must connect in Paris and make sure that, actually, now we even have more of a leverage to get a strong climate agreement in Paris.
AMY GOODMAN: Alix Mazounie, we want to thank you for being with us. You’re standing in front of the Place de la République, where people are showing their solidarity with those who died on Friday. Alix Mazounie is international policies coordinator at the Climate Action Network France.