Why Paris climate change talks won't allow protesters

In preparing for a highly anticipated climate conference in Paris, France tries to balance normalcy with heightened security concerns.

(AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Mounted police pass under the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. France is urging its European partners to move swiftly to boost intelligence sharing, fight arms trafficking and terror financing, and strengthen border security in the wake of the Paris attacks.

A highly anticipated UN climate conference scheduled to start in Paris in two weeks will go on as planned, though many of the side events, like marches and concerts, will likely be canceled as France tries to balance a “business-as-usual” approach with increased security concerns.

"It will go ahead with reinforced security measures," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters in Vienna on Saturday, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

"This is an absolutely necessary step in the battle against climate change and of course it will take place," he said.

The terrorist attacks in Paris, which have killed 129 people and injured hundreds more, left some people worried that the French government and United Nations might cancel the COP21, where countries are expected to map out a global accord to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

But officials say that the main part of conference, the negotiations, will go on as planned.

“The feeling is we should go on with business as usual, because you can’t give in to these terrorists,” an unidentified European diplomat told Politico on Saturday, adding that his prime minister will attend.

President Barack Obama and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker both said they will attend the Paris climate talks on Nov. 30, joining about 196 heads of state and other government officials for opening speeches to kick off the two-week event.

Politico reports that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change expects the event to draw about 10,000 government representatives to the Le Bourget conference center in a northeastern Parisian suburb, plus 3,000 journalists and about 7,000 climate activists and other observers each week.

One of the canceled events is a march intended to put pressure on governments to cut greenhouse gas emissions that was planned for the eve of the summit, Nov. 29. Organizers had hoped it would attract about 200,000 people

Mr. Fabius told Reuters that many world leaders have committed to come to the summit, despite the violent Friday attacks that shook the world.

He quoted some leaders as saying: "We not only planned to come, but now we have to come, because we have to show to the terrorists that we are not afraid of them."

Europeans are conflicted about the heightened security measures and the threat to freedoms, The Christian Science Monitor reports

Antoine Lippen, a regular customer of the bars and cafes that came under fire in central Paris Friday, is one.

“Not whatever it takes,” he says. “It would be too dangerous to block our own liberties when we know terrorist attacks are always cowardly attacks attacking at the place and time you least expect it, so there is always a breach in security, whatever is imposed.”

Karim Emile Bitar, a Paris-based professor of international relations at Lebanon's Université Saint-Joseph, says that massive surveillance not only risks undermining democracy but could ultimately hurt counter-terrorism strategies.

“What is needed is human intelligence, intimate knowledge of Middle Eastern societies. Like the 19th-century anarchists, Islamist terrorists today want to ‘sharpen the contradictions’ within Western societies," he says. "Overreactions and a rise of extreme rhetoric would play in their favor. Governments should not fall into that trap.”

Some experts are saying that the conference may devote more time to discussions linking climate change with national security, a theme often stressed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, reports Reuters.

The news service points to a March study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that claims drought and man-made climate change may be among the underlying causes of the conflict in Syria.

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