By John Zangas
Washington, DC – Several hundred people allied with environmental organizations rallied at the White House on Sunday, November 30 to show their solidarity with protests happening at the start of a major summit on climate change in Paris.
More than 500 activists called on President Obama to end carbon emissions and implement programs now to transition to renewable energy sources.
Parisians responded to a government ban on planned climate protests by setting 20,000 pairs of shoes in streets near the Place de la République.
Several thousand protesters defied the “State of Emergency” ban nonetheless, congregating at the square. Police tear-gassed protesters and arrested hundreds. One video shows police clubbing youth seated quietly on the sidewalk.
Hundreds of thousands took part in similar actions in step with COP21 protests in Paris. As climate awareness spreads, more are joining efforts to engage governments to end fossil fuels and transition to renewable energy sources.
At the White House, activists were skeptical about the talks. “We need an agreement that is scientifically sound and fair, [but] right now it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be either,” said Luisa Galvao, Climate and Energy Associate at Friends of the Earth.
Galvano applauded the efforts of climate activists to get a good agreement, but also urged them to keep the pressure on. “If they don’t, we need to come right back here and hold them accountable for it,” she said.
Peter Murtha, co-founder of 350.org Montgomery County, described how his chapter is acting on the local level by organizing a divestment campaign from fossil fuels. They’re urging the County to sell off all the stocks and bonds in the “top 200 carbon companies” in its pension plan.
2015 is on track to be the warmest year ever recorded, Murtha said. He believes time is running out to act on climate change.
Mick Power, organizer at the U.S. Climate Action Network, spoke of the hundreds of thousands who had already rallied in cities all around the world. “We want to see bold action,” he said. “We want fossil fuels to stay in the ground. We want 100% clean renewable energy.”
The 21st United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP21), will attempt to unite 150 countries on a plan to limit carbon emissions. Chiefs of State will meet in Le Bourget, France, from November 30 to December 11 to negotiate terms for carbon reductions. But climate activists say corporate meddling will limit substantial progress in achieving carbon free economies.
Following the terrorist attacks on several sites in Paris earlier this month, French Police banned public protests, and even preemptively put 24 organizers under house arrest to deter dissent.
Activists plan to return to the White House on December 12, after the climate talks in Paris end, to continue putting pressure on the administration.