Yalies at COP21: Day 0

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Excerpt from the blog of the Yale Student Environmental Coalition’s delegation to the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21/CMP11), in which two undergraduate delegates (Amanda Mei ’18 and Justin Myles ’17) attending the conference in Paris from November 30 to December write about their observations of events and developments during the conference, with updates about international diplomacy and climate change.


Nov. 13 attacks in Paris have given people a greater urgency to achieve a lasting climate deal at COP21. The public has a voice and a stake in the conference — and they demonstrated it despite cancellation of a climate march in Place de la République. Before demonstrations in the plaza became violent, they were positive — much like the March of Resilience earlier this month at Yale. COP21 has not officially begun, but today in Paris I felt the widespread ambition and urgency to achieve a climate deal.

COP21 has not officially begun, but today in Paris I felt the widespread ambition and urgency to achieve a climate deal.

I began the day by heading over the Paris-Le Bourget site to receive my observer’s badge, and I saw hundreds of people in business attire, employees preparing the venues, and conference staff giving directions. I also saw some police forces French president François Hollande deployed to protect the site before everyone arrives. But the place was mostly quiet. I was at the Place de la République, paying my respects to the candlelit, decorated memorial that sprung up around the main statue after the massacres of Nov. 13, which happened blocks from the plaza. There was one person, surrounded by others, speaking fervently in French into a loudspeaker. Then there were two more with some people holding signs — about climate change — behind them. Within half an hour, the plaza was filled with demonstrators holding cardboard signs, banners, and flags proclaiming the injustices human beings have wrought the Earth and the actions — nay, the revolution — needed to fight back those wrongs. People were shouting, chanting, marching, clapping, waving their arms, and dancing; the People’s Climate March that had been scheduled here and cancelled due to security concerns after Nov. 13 became this impassioned gathering.

I was inspired and picked up a flyer, but it was about legal information and what to do under police threat. I noticed people wearing blank white masks. I saw two people climb up onto the République statue, shout, and be warned off by the police. I saw people dancing and placing their shoes in the street (to represent those who could not make the cancelled march), in front of a line of foreboding police. Then, after the majority of the demonstrations faded and I left, I read about the demonstrators who had become violent and thrown things at the police and the police who had dispersed the rioters with tear gas. I was shocked, and I wanted to go back, but the metro lines were not closed.

So I’ll wait until tomorrow — to see how the action develops when the conference begins.

Read the daily updates here » Check out photos here and here

Watch more:

Climate Countdown episodes that map how the global community is coming together to solve the climate change crisis in 2015—talking to scientists, activists, policy makers and citizens about what they’re actually doing to tackle this problem

Read more:

COP21, Me, and You: What you need to know about the United Nations climate change conference

Data-Driven Yale at COP-21

Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies student participants

Yale on the ground in Paris » More coverage

Dr. James Hansen, Climatologist: “Isolation of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: Part I”


**Originally written and posted for the Yalies at COP21 blog. You can check out more blog posts and photos from the conference here