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The Run-Up to Paris 2015: A Change of Paradigm in the Climate Movement

By Delphine Chalençon

The bitter disappointment at the failure of previous climate summits dealt a serious blow to climate activism. But now, with COP 21 on the horizon, a new movement is building across Europe. Greens have the opportunity to be a voice for this movement, but only if they succeed in convincing citizens that they hear their demands for change and will see their commitments through.

New Hope After Bitter Disappointment

In December 2015, at the UN climate summit in Paris, world leaders will once again try and come up with a deal to limit the impact of global warming before its spirals out of control.

Hopes were extremely high in 2009, when representatives of Government and Heads of State met in Copenhagen for the 15th Conference of the Parties in order to come up with a plan to reduce world carbon emissions to a safe level. Unfortunately, the incredible mobilisation of citizens coupled with heightened media and policy interest did not suffice to convince leaders to go beyond national interest. This beautiful enthusiasm – which also created huge expectations – led nowhere. At the last minute, a petty deal without real ambitious commitments brokered between China, South Africa, India, Brazil and the US put an end to citizens’ hopes of seeing the whole world unite in a single common fight.

The outcome of the conference paralysed the whole Green movement. Citizens, NGOs and Green parties – which had spent so much time and effort engaging with society, various business sectors and the media – woke up stunned the day after the summit, feeling absolutely powerless. The so-called climate fatigue that ensued from this blow lasted a long time.

Within society, slowly but surely, a small but increasingly active and positive movement is taking shape.

But the mood is now changing. And it is changing for the better. In the last five years, citizens and the Green movement have taken the time to recover but also to organise themselves. They did not just sit back and wait but took the time to digest and reflect. Within society, slowly but surely, a small but increasingly active and positive movement is taking shape. In different parts of society, small changes can be perceived. A huge number of people have come to realise that the way our societies are organised has shown its limits and that things must change. The sharing economy, helped by the rapid development of technologies but mainly due to citizens’ creativity, is spreading more and more. Local communities get together and organise their own decentralised energy projects; co-operative structures, family-sized businesses are being created every day; new currency and payment systems are being trialled. The green, circular economy is taking shape. All of this constitutes a real alternative movement that was considered as too idealistic or insignificant a few years ago, but which is now growing and which will sooner or later have to become the norm.

Some might say that things got worse, and one would struggle to prove them wrong: the impacts of climate change can be felt everywhere across the globe and the latest reports from the UNFCCC have never been so alarming. Everywhere in Europe and beyond, national interest seems to get in the way of all common initiatives, giving the impression of stagnation or worse, moving backwards.

Although world leaders might not be willing to transcend their far too narrow vision and selfish interests, and despite some citizens losing faith in the ability of their representatives to improve their quality of life, it does not mean that nothing important or positive is under way.

An Historic Opportunity for Greens

The biggest climate march in history that took place in New York City and in many cities in the world showed that people are ready for something different. Citizens are playing an active role and making concrete demands, one of the primary ones being that world leaders rapidly abandon all types of fossil fuels and increase the share of renewable energy sources.

Everywhere in Europe and beyond, national interest seems to get in the way of all common initiatives, giving the impression of stagnation or worse, moving backwards.

Only a few months away from the COP 21 in Paris, the Greens now have a fantastic opportunity and role to play: they can give more voice to this parallel movement and economy that is being shaped day-by-day by millions of people across the globe.  They can ensure that this so-called alternative movement gets bigger and bigger, that the demands made by citizens are listened to in the political sphere and that the Green, circular economy that puts the citizen and the environment at the core of all its policies becomes the norm. Greens must now show to citizens that they are witnessing these demands and changes that other political groups refuse to see, marginalise or look down upon.

The climate will receive more and more interest from politicians and media in the run-up to the COP and this is an opportunity that our movement must seize. For a long time, the Greens have demonstrated that many Green and cost-efficient solutions exist to solve the different financial, economic and social crises afflicting our world today. The time has come now to lead on a subject that has always been the core of their values and show other political parties that what was considered too idealistic several years ago is now spreading throughout the world. Citizens need our help to make their voices louder and to bring about the change that they are so eager to see come true.

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