Pondering our pre-Paris protest

On the 29th of November thousands of people took to the streets all over the world to have their voices heard by the world leaders negotiating climate action in Paris. Being PhD students passionate about tackling climate change we could not let this opportunity pass by to get up from our desks and add our voices to those of activists, NGOs, religious groups and countless ordinary people trying to speak up. So, we joined in the action in London!


Looking back at COP21 in Paris, which concluded on the 11th of December, and considering the Paris agreement one cannot help but feel that a small victory has been won. A hundred and ninety-five countries have agreed to decrease or limit their emissions by 2020 to cause no more than a 2°C rise in global average temperature compared to pre-industrial levels (pre 1800), with the ambition to keep it close to 1.5 degrees.[1] The question we are left with however is: in what way has all this activism helped towards reaching this agreement?


It’s hard to put a figure on just how much activism influences those seeking and reaching political agreements. However, actions like these are sure to make an impression, even if it’s only visually. From our own experience, being only two people in a sea of protesters, we can say it feels empowering to be part of sending the univocal message “make Paris a success”. We noticed many banners calling for climate justice, and felt glad that this was a clear part of the protest’s message. Even if there were a multitude of slogans being carried proudly in the march and divergent religious and non-religious groups of people representing their beliefs, we all contributed to sending this clear message together. This just goes to show: the health of our planet is something everyone can (and arguably should) care about. Surely solidarity and speaking up is important for galvanising public support for climate action and climate justice. We are glad to be making a contribution to the wider pursuit of climate justice through our research.

To conclude, this is our message to all the climate-activist sympathisers out there (particularly those normally sitting behind a desk researching climate change): if you feel tempted to take to the streets, don’t hesitate; storm those barricades!


[1] UNFCCC Adoption of the Paris Agreement Paris, 30 November to 11 December 2015: pp.2 and 22

By Vera Van Gool (Leverhulme Doctoral Scholar) and Phil Coventry (PhD candidate in the Department of Geography and Environmental Science)

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