UN climate conference begins with global protests
Demonstrators clash with CRS riot policemen near the Place de la Republique after the cancellation of a planned climate march following shootings in the French capital, ahead of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21), in Paris, France, November 29, 2015. REUTERS/Eric GaillardAs world leaders gathered in Paris for the United Nations COP21 Climate Conference set to begin on Nov. 30, tens of thousands of people around the world joined one of the biggest global days of climate change activism ever on Nov. 29, to put pressure on world leaders to unite in fighting global warming at the summit in Paris.
More than 140 leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend the start of the U.N. conference, tasked with reaching the first truly universal climate pact.
The goal is to limit average global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), perhaps less, over pre-Industrial Revolution levels by curbing fossil fuel emissions blamed for climate change.
As part of the protests held across the globe, some 20,000 pairs of shoes were laid out in the Place de la Republique in the French capital, from high-heels to boots, to symbolize absent marchers after attacks by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants killed 130 people on Nov. 13 and led France to ban a protest that was meant to be at the heart of the global action.
Organizers said the Vatican sent a pair of shoes on behalf of Pope Francis, according to Reuters. One activist, dressed in white as an angel with large wings, held a sign saying “coal kills.”
More than 2,000 events were being held in cities across the globe including Sydney, Berlin, London, Sao Paulo and New York, making it perhaps the biggest day of climate action in history on the eve of the Paris conference, which runs from Nov. 30-Dec. 11.
In another protest in Paris before the climate conference, protesters linked hands near the violent heart of the Paris terror attacks on Nov. 29, giving an emotional jolt to world leaders flying into the French capital in an attempt to prevent a climate catastrophe.
As hundreds of thousands of people joined protests worldwide, the human chain aimed to send a highly symbolic message to leaders on the eve of the official opening of a 195-nation U.N. climate summit in Paris.
Nearly 1,000 people thought to pose security risks have been denied entry into France since stepped-up border controls were imposed ahead of the COP21 climate talks on Nov. 13, just hours before the Paris attacks, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Nov. 28.
They were prevented from entering France “because of the risk these people could represent for public order and security in our country,” Cazeneuve said, during a visit to the northeastern city of Strasbourg, Agence France-Presse reported.
He said nearly 15,000 police, gendarmes and customs agents have been deployed to the country’s borders.
Meanwhile, Beijing issued its highest-level smog alert this year and urged residents to stay indoors, as dangerous air pollution continued to cloak swathes of northern China on Nov. 29.
China’s capital issued an “orange” alert, hours after levels of PM2.5 - particles which can penetrate deeply into the lungs - reached more than 15 times recommended levels.
Residents were advised to minimize outdoor activities, while those with respiratory illnesses and the elderly were urged to stay inside their homes.