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'Green vests': Paris climate marchers spot overlap with 'yellow' comrades

Stephane Mahé, Reuters | Protesters wearing yellow vests gather with demonstrators of the world climate march at the Place de la République during a national day of protest by the Yellow Vests movement in Paris, France, on December 8, 2018.

Several thousand people demonstrated in Paris on Saturday in a “March for the Climate” largely overshadowed by violent clashes taking place elsewhere in the French capital. “Yellow vests, green vests, we are all angry”, the Paris crowd chanted.

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An effort to raise the alarm about “the social and climatic emergency”, the march coincided with the United Nations’ COP24 climate conference taking place in the Polish city of Katowice. It was organised by environmental activist groups including Alternatiba and Les Amis de la Terre (Friends of the Earth). Similar marches were slated for more than 120 cities in France including Marseille, Lyon and Bordeaux on Saturday, alongside others around the world.

The Paris edition of the march saw its route modified at the last minute in order to avoid potential spillover from the Yellow Vest protests that have had the city on tenterhooks for a fourth consecutive Saturday, but organisers rejected authorities’ entreaties to postpone to event. Demonstrators were initially meant to set off from Trocadéro to the Champ-de-Mars, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower in the west of the city, but the procession was shifted eastward instead. The climate protesters marched from the Place de la Nation to the Place de la République, where speeches and a concert were slated to conclude the proceedings. Organisers said 25,000 people had arrived on the Place de la République by 4pm.

All for one and one for all

“End of the world, end of the month, for us it’s the same battle,” the marchers chanted.

Some marchers wore the high-visibility garment made iconic over the past three weeks by the so-called Yellow Vest protesters. That movement began in opposition to the French government’s proposed fuel-tax increases, but it has grown to include a more general fight to counteract diminishing purchasing power.

“Social justice is needed for climate conditions to improve. The two battles mustn’t be separated, contrary to what people would want us to believe”, a yellow-vest-clad protester called Alissa told Reuters. “This morning I was at the Saint-Lazare train station alongside railworkers. We were all together. We paper over our differences in the name of more social equality,” the 44-year-old artist added.

“Everyone can be in favour of the climate, yellow vest or not”, said Emma, a 20-year-old student in sustainable development. “If the Yellow Vests want to march for the climate, that’s even better and we welcome them with pleasure. Without social change, we won’t have climate change. The two battles converge,” she added. “There are people who have an environmental conscience but who, halfway through the month, have nothing left and who tell themselves ‘the important thing is survival and not to protect the climate’.”

Macron COP out?

Saturday’s march is part of a wider “Rise for climate” movement, which has mounted citizen marches internationally every month since September in order to escalate pressure on global leaders to take climate-friendly action and to see it through.

Three years after the adoption of the Paris Climate Agreement during the COP 21 conference held in the city, decision-makers enthusiasm for the deal has waned and concerns have intensified over the world’s ability to stick to the pledge the agreement contained to keep global warming below 2°C through the end of this century.

In France, President Emmanuel Macron’s climate credibility has earned mixed reviews since his election last year – despite the “Champion of the Earth” prize the United Nations awarded him in September.

Macron’s eco-cred took another hit this week when his government announced it would abandon his carbon-friendly fuel-tax hikes to appease Yellow Vest protesters, a move environmental activists considered a “retreat”.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)

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