I’m finally in Paris for the Climate Talks

I made a small crowdfunding contribution to get today’s Guest Poster, Thom Mitchell of New Matilda, to the Climate Talks in Paris. This is the email he sent to his supporters earlier today – with permission to share.

Interesting indeed!

Bonjour de Paris,

Thanks to your generous support of New Matilda and myself, I’ve been pounding the cobblestones in the City of Lights now for four days. It’s been strange: the State of Emergency which flowed from the Paris terror attacks has given rise, literally, to an army of armed guards.

Many of them are dressed in military fatigues, many of them are cops, and all of them are heavily armed. There’s beefy men with guns on every street corner and in every alcove. I’m staying right by Place De République, which is less than a kilometre from Le Bataclan where the main attacks occurred. It’s near the bar-littered district which was targeted by gunmen, and it’s tense like a spring loaded with the memory of Paris’ fresh trauma.

At a cafe I’ve been frequenting, I spoke to a Kiwi who’s been living in Paris close to a year. He saw ‘them’, he said, “just get out of their cars with machine guns and start shooting; the bodies turned inside out”. He sheltered with the army, said he saw the tanks role in. Two days later, at Le République, which has transformed into a perpetually candlelit vigil people often pause at passing through, when a large crowd got spooked by a firecracker. They stampeded into cafes, overturning set tables to shield them from bullets that never came.

Just a few months earlier, he’d been across the road from the offices of Charlie Hebdo, the site of an earlier terror strike, and understandably he’s shaken. The French are trying to play down their terror, he said, to not let on how deeply affected they are. But I’m told the streets are unusually thin with people. One woman I spoke with said she’s avoiding going out, and not reading the news, because she knows she’ll restart imagining if she does.

There’s a sort of theatre being played out by the men with rifles, handguns, bullet vests and batons. I’ve followed a few convoys, sirens blaring, only for them to park calmly just a few blocks away. Nothing to see there but scores of vans, sometimes marked and sometimes not; coveting the hundreds or thousands of security people walking, parking, leaning against walls and those big French double doors that lead to apartment building courtyards.

But I came for the climate conference, arguably one of the greatest peace talks in the world, and so did thousands of activists. They’re competing for the now heavily controlled public space, and again La République is a point in case. It’s the first thing I saw when I emerged from the subway and my thirty-hour long haul flight, and it’s become a symbol of the conflicted and confused response of shaken Parisians.

Named after the French Republic, and home to a large bronze statue symbolising it, Marianne, it’s long been a flashpoint of political activity. The hundreds of thousands of climate campaigners who had been set to take to Parisian streets would, I assume, have focalised on it if a march that had been planned for November 29 hadn’t been stymied by the State of Emergency.

Now, in fraternity with the planet and the millions or billions that stand to be decimated if global greenhouse gas emissions are not brought to heel and stomped out, a human chain will issue from the iconic square, the physical allegory to France’s claimed values of liberty and equality.

As the United Nations General Secretary Envoy for Youth said at a climate function I attended on Friday, “we are here to show that France and Paris will always be stronger than the attempts of these fanatics…[but] we are also here to send a message of support and solidarity with the planet, the only planet we have”.

But over and above the sting of the attacks, there is a sense of hope with greater longevity. A few hours ago, I filed my first yarn from Le Bourget, on the Parisian fringe where the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is being staged.

That’s the UN lingo for the international process around climate change, and the Executive Secretary to that convention, Christiana Figueres, was there at Le Bourget today. So was the French Foreign Minister, who’s soon to be installed as President of COP21, Laurant Fabius. They gave a lengthy press briefing on where the process is at, and what to expect in the coming two weeks of negotiations.

They didn’t mention the sleep deprivation, or the lack of nutritious food that has allegedly plagued past talks (although, the salad I had today was pretty bloody good). But they did exude confidence the Paris climate talks will be a success.

They would, though, of course, wouldn’t they?

But it’s true that there’s cause for optimism, and I think one of Figuere’s comments was genuinely made: “Before [it] was thought that addressing climate change was going to be only a burden. Now, over time, and particularly in the past year, it has been shown that we do not need to choose between economic development, between security, and between addressing climate change, but that these things go hand in hand”.

The Pope, Islamic Scholars, the US and China; segments of business, swathes of sub-national jurisdictions, and the vast mobilisation of people across the globe this weekend have moved in unison over recent months to set the stage for a (comparatively) ambitious, legally binding, and imperative climate pact to keep the rise in global average temperatures at least below two degrees.

They all have their own agendas, it’s true. Some of them will be invidious, like our own Prime Minister’s. Other’s will be insidious, like the fossil fuel companies that are ironically and insultingly funding the climate conference. And some of them will be illusory, like many of the non-government agencies that are working to ramp up pressure on problem countries like Australia.

But the hallmark of the Paris talks is that they aim to set up a process. We know the agreement will not be enough to keep us within the internationally agreed two degree guard rail. Figeures admitted as much today. But its organisers have been careful to focus on establishing a process for ratcheting up national commitments over time, rather than resurrecting the ill-fated ‘Hopenhagen’ campaign the United Nations ran ahead of failed talks in 2009.

What’s really at stake, more than anything, is the nature of the response. We can be quietly confident that there’s enough will – and enough political skin in the game – to get a reasonable outcome.

This time, it’s more a question of who that process works for, and why. And it’s too early to tell how things will play out: Who will be legally bound, and how? Will rich nations accept responsibility for enriching themselves through fossil fuels that now threaten, in particular, people in the developing world? And how much influence will the long arm of the fossil fuel lobby wield?

I’ll be filing regular updates to keep you in the loop, and to show my gratitude for your support for independent media and my work. These insider emails are only going to the funders of this campaign, but of course, feel free to share if you like. And also feel free to drop me a line here if you have any questions or comments.

For now though,

Au revoir.


325 thoughts on “I’m finally in Paris for the Climate Talks

  1. Bronwyn Bishop spent $50,000 in taxpayer funds on South America trip

    Former speaker Bronwyn Bishop spent more than $50,000 on a country-hopping South American trip earlier this year.

    Mrs Bishop resigned as speaker in August following weeks of pressure over her taxpayer-funded expenditure.

    Documents reveal she travelled to Ecuador, Peru and Argentina between January 10-25 this year.

    Four other MPs and senators were part of a delegation that travelled to Ecuador and Peru for the Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum.

    Mrs Bishop travelled to Argentina without other members of the group.

    The other four charged taxpayers less than $24,000 each


  2. This should send Corgi and his mates frothing

    Queensland has restored civil unions for same-sex couples, a move the Palaszczuk government hopes will add to pressure to its federal counterpart to enact marriage equality.

    In one of its last pieces of legislation for 2015, the state parliament voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to bring back the rights of same-sex couples to state-sanctioned ceremonies that stand as a secular alternative to marriage for de facto couples.

    The bill passed 64 votes to 22, helped by some senior members of the former Liberal National party government that scrapped the ceremonies in 2012 because they were seen as too closely mimicking marriage.


  3. Mark Kenny doing his best to keep the ‘will he or won’t he’ pot on the simmer.

    Malcolm Turnbull’s Abbott problem simply won’t go away

    It’s Peta who is “keeping Tony in the game”, says a sympathetic MP. “She believes he can make a come-back probably more than him and is pushing him to it.” But nobody really knows. Coalition members have talked themselves dry on the subject of Abbott’s plans


  4. Oscar Pistorius faces the prospect of serving at least 15 years in prison after a South African court convicted him of murder over the death of his girlfriend.

    Pistorious’ story of what happened never ‘stacked up’.

  5. TLBD

    It’s the Malcolm is the Totally Magnificent syndrome. It’s caused by breathing fumes from the rainbows he farts.

    Another sufferer of the syndrome was the RN peasant interviewing Albo this morning. Saying the economy was looking up under Truffles they told Albo that “exports are going gang busters”. Despite……….

    Trade deficit widens 38% in October

    ….Exports fell 3 per cent, while imports were flat.Mr Hanlan said the terms of trade had weakened further at the start of the December quarter, after having fallen 2.3 per cent the prior quarter and 10.4 per cent for this first three quarters combined.


  6. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-12-03/surge-in-women-seeking-help-after-hitting-home-documentary-airs/6997764




    http://www.latimes.com/local/la-san-bernardino-shooting-sg-20151202-storygallery.html all the info, multiple articles. The LA Times is a good paper, and this is their patch.


  7. Ducky,

    Dear me. Given the choice between unkle rupes and kochx2, it’s difficult to decide which would be the worse proprietors.

    If mordoch is still in charge, interesting to see they are not quite toeing the line.

  8. Fiona – I think he considered it, its name came up a couple of times as one of many media concerns he looked at but those might have just been rumours. He never made a real bid. This was the last ownership development.



    Years ago Rupert did want to buy the New York Times, but they managed to avoid that. Instead he was able to buy the Wall street Journal and make that his main upmarket competitor to the NYT.

  9. I’ve been listening to some of Putin’s “State of the Nation” speech. Given the image he has overseas it seemed a bit strange to hear him speaking at length about the importance of issues like access to preschool education , maternity leave , teacher training , access to healthcare , access to services in remote areas etc.

  10. Leroy,

    Thank you for that – I confess I was being a bit lazy.

    Meanwhile, I’d be interested to hear from anyone who knows anything about a possible connexion between claustrophobia and bathophobia.

  11. Just another cross for Saint Malcolm to carry

    Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull could see workers in his own department take strike action, as the fight over pay and conditions between the Government and public service rolls on.

    More than 90 per cent of Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPM&C) union members who voted have supported industrial action, which could range from work bans to 24-hour strikes.

    “Malcolm Turnbull is now facing industrial action including strikes in his own agency, in what’s a clear sign that public sector bargaining remains a mess that the Government needs to fix,” Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) secretary Nadine Flood said.


  12. Ducky,

    Bathophobia is fear of depths.

    DD is somewhat claustrophobic, and has had one mild and one moderate attack in her first two decades.

    Now, however, she has to do things like proving her ability to escape successfully from a submerged helicopter, so I think she is coping with it.

    Bathophobia seems to be a wide-ranging problem. I have no fear of external heights – I’m quite happy up a mountain, or in a plane (there’s another, different, phobia there) but when it comes to looking down lift shafts, or being on an escalator that isn’t politely enclosed but arches out over the shopping centre, or an extended staircase with no risers between the treads . . . I go to water.

    Yesterday was a case in point: one of those big suburban malls, lots of arching escalators . . . and then, to make matters really bad, I managed to get myself into the fire stairs which involved going all the way down to the lower ground floor.

    Other than that – given my general hatred of shopping for clothes – it was a really pleasant day.

  13. Has anyone here heard of this? Russia gave this memorial to the USA

    I did not know about it until today.

    To the Struggle Against World Terrorism . also known as the Tear of Grief and the Tear Drop Memorial, is a 10–story sculpture by Zurab Tsereteli that was given to the United States as an official gift of the Russian government as a memorial to the victims of the September 11 attacks and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. It stands at the end of the former Military Ocean Terminal in Bayonne, New Jersey, and was dedicated on September 11, 2006, in a ceremony attended by former U.S. President Bill Clinton and the President of Russia Vladimir Putin

  14. puffyTMD

    You would not be alone. Not many New Yorkers know about it either. Apparently it got sfa to zero publicity and was put in a bit of an out of the way place. I only found out after seeing a doco by the guy who wrote this newspaper article.

    About 50 million people visit New York every year and more than eight million live there but no one seems to have heard of The Teardrop…which is odd because it is a 100ft tall, 175-ton memorial to those who died on the city’s blackest day

    The one person who did know was an official guide but he said: ‘I bet 99 per cent of New Yorkers haven’t a clue where it is.

    ……….Eventually someone walked by and kindly offered to call a local taxi firm on his mobile. He’d never heard of The Teardrop but luckily the taxi driver had. He drove us two miles across a wasteland which was once an army base until we came to an isolated quay.


  15. fiona
    My mobile is not letting me make outgoing calls since they sent me a new simcard. (long story) but i cantake calls. so if you could call me, it would bew better,

  16. A new study has found that people who buy into “pseudo-profound bullsh*t” – the researchers’ words, not ours – are more likely to score on the low side for verbal and fluid intelligence, and are also more likely to believe in conspiracies and endorse alternative medicine.

    What exactly is pseudo-profound bullsh*t, you might ask? In the context of this study, it’s defined as statements that sound super deep but actually make very little sense – you know, the kind that one friend is always sharing on Facebook. For example: “Wellbeing requires exploration. To traverse the mission is to become one with it,” and “Hidden meaning transforms unparalleled abstract.”


  17. Good morning Dawn Patrollers.

    “Shirtfronted” part 5 in which much of how Turnbull was describing Abbott comes to light. Try “basically a psychopath”. It describes the fall.
    The SMH editorial looks at Abbott’s response to “Shirtfronted”.
    Peter Hartcher on Abbott being snubbed by the Queen.
    Mark Kenny writes of a messy end to a messy year.
    “View from the Street” on Chainsaw’s defection and Turnbull’s end of year message.
    Martin Parkinson warns us that our luck has run out. He also piles in on the importance of climate change,
    Mark Kenny asks what should Turnbull do with Abbott and his right wing acolytes.
    Michelle Grattan on Macfarlane’s defection and the subject of political loyalty.
    Here’s the US press reaction to the San Bernardino shootings of yesterday.
    This singles out the response of Republican hopefuls to the outrage.

  18. Section 2 . . .

    The motives for the shootings are still unclear.
    Obama asks the states to lead the way on guns given that Congress has failed to act.
    Tim Fischer is sick and tired of the US and its hypocrisy on travel warnings and its gun culture.
    Stephen Koukoulas on what lies ahead for the Australian economy.
    Bob Ellis’s Thursday Countdown – the last day of parliament for 2015.
    And it wasn’t a good day for Oscar Pistotius yesterday.
    Would you believe this? Australia is under fire at the Paris climate change conference for using and bending very flexible rules.
    Wrapping up Cory Bernardi’s crazy halal Senate inquiry.

  19. Section 3 . . . with Cartoon Corner

    Richard Ackland has some fun with the Ericasaurus.
    Meanwhile the CA Royal Commission is gathering more and more damning information.
    Cathy Wilcox infers that the honeymoon’s over for Turnbull.

    Pat Campbell and the US gun culture.

    And Mark Knight goes further on the US and its beloved guns.
    Bill Leak with a searching presser with Brough.

  20. More nonsense

    “Or rather it was for the first 10 weeks of the Turnbull prime ministership, as he reversed many Abbott government problems, energised policy debates and shifted towards the political centre.”

  21. An interesting scenario –

    MaFarlane, somewhat disgruntled long-time friend of Turnbull, defects to the National Party, hoping that will get him back into the ministry and as a bonus give him a chance at becoming deputy leader of the National Party.

    Brough is sacked, quietly, or quietly resigns from the ministry, and hardly anyone notices because the Press Gallery are too busy with Christmas drinks and anyway, who cares about politics over the Christmas holidays.

    Then because the Nats now have more numbers after a couple more defections and have to get another ministry MacFarlane is made a minister, taking Brough’s place, or someone else’s after a bit of a reshuffle and hardly anyone notices because……

    So very neat, so easy, all perfectly normal parliamentary business, nothing to see here, just go back to your Christmas drinks and trust us to look after the country……

    Of course, Brough has to go for this scenario to play out. He won’t do the right thing and resign, so it’s all up to Waffles. Does he have the guts to sack Brough?

  22. The SMH editorial – let’s not forget that same editorial urged us all to vote for an Abbott government in 2013.

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