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Sussex students take to the streets in Paris for action on climate change

On December 12th, over 20 University of Sussex students took part in the D12 red lines demonstration in Paris to demand that world governments at COP-21 not cross the red line that will lead to catastrophic climate change.

A group of us took the lovely long 10-hour coach to Paris, organised by People and Planet and Reclaim the Power; others took the even-longer route, cycling to Paris over the course of five days along with 120 other climate cyclists.

Being in Paris, to be sure that we citizens had the last word on the climate change talks, which finished on Saturday 12th December, was incredibly inspiring and exciting. The red lines demonstration, all along the l’Avenue de la Grande Armee, was organised by a coalition of NGOs and activist groups, ‘Coalition Climat’, all demanding that governments take serious action to tackle global warming.

In honour of the people who are currently suffering due to the effects of climate change, we observed a two-minute moment of silence and laid down flowers. Frontline and indigenous communities led the way, and we were part of over 10,000 other people marching down the street with a 105-metre long banner reading, “We won’t stop here. It’s up to us to keep fossil fuels in the ground”.

Sussex Students also carried banners with varying messages, reading ‘F*** me not the planet’, ‘Climate over Profit’ and ‘what will your children see?’ with eyes showing the two options of a world ravaged by climate change and another, cleaner more sustainable world.

This protest was unauthorised by the French authorities due to its State of Emergency until late Friday night, meaning that the determination of the protesters, adamant that we would be on the streets no matter what, forced the authorities to override their own imposed State of Emergency for us to have the last say on the Climate Change negotiations in Paris.

So, the impromptu March from l’Avenue de la Grande Armee to the Eiffel Tower happened, although not authorised. The atmosphere of this peoples’ march was one of excitement and power, with shouts calling ‘system change not climate change’ and ‘we are unstoppable, another world is possible’.

Before the action on Saturday, there were lots of sidevents happening in Paris, and we went along to learn and become inspired about this truly international movement, fighting for a sustainable and just future. We learnt about the lies of geo-engineering, the ideas to create an “eco-cide” law, for crimes against the environment like crimes against humanity, the importance of women in Africa, who toil the land and feed their families to find sustainable ways to live and how climate change is already happening. For those at the frontline, climate change is not science about 1 or 2 degrees of warming, it’s being unable to find clean water, clear air and land to farm and live on when a power plant is built on your land. 

This weekend in Paris was just the beginning, a chance to build momentum and further understand how to start a year of action for the planet. At Sussex, action for a better future is already happening, and only needs to grow more. Some students are part of the worldwide campaign of Fossil Free, demanding institutions, including universities, divest their money away from fossil fuels. From Paris, it is clear more than ever that we must keep over 80% of fossil fuels in the ground to avoid the end of our planet and civilisation as we know it.

For those who went to France, we have come back motivated and determined to continue this climate fight, and for everyone else who now understands the immediate importance of climate change, please join the Sussex in Transition movement (https://www.facebook.com/SCASussex/?fref=ts) for a more just and sustainable campus, and get involved with Fossil Free Sussex by signing the petition at https://campaigns.gofossilfree.org/petitions/sussex-university-ethical-investment-campaign.

Annie Pickering

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