"Solutions COP21," kicked off in Paris last week, inviting up to 50,000 visitors to "live the climate experience and discover existing practical solutions to take us forward to the post-carbon era." The installation has been marketed as having family-friendly exhibitions, lectures, and films for people of all ages to enjoy, 'bring(ing) together non-State actors to share their climate solutions with a wider audience.'
Let's be clear about what is happening here; this event is a tear-gas fuelled smoke-screen. While Francis Hollande and the French authorities are stamping down on civil society from staging peaceful demonstrations during the climate negotiations, they're actively supporting multinational corporations in taking similar direct action - corporations who are actively blocking climate progress behind closed doors.
These 'non-State actors' are namely multinational corporations who want to present a climate-friendly face to the public, but in reality are actively blocking climate progress behind closed doors. Sponsors include such businesses as Coca-Cola, Renault, Evian, Michelin, Suez, Engie, Carrefour, and L'Oreal - who believe that by spending some of their budgets on a marketing offensive they can increase their profits with blatant green-washing. By offering glamorised events for the public and decision-makers alike, these businesses are ensuring they can continue to influence the COP21 negotiations with false solutions.
Police remove protester from a lampost in Paris
Photo: Morgan Henley
Many of the visitors of this event are well intentioned citizens who recognize that climate change is a serious issue, and instead of having an opportunity to explore the challenges and realistic solutions to our crisis, they will receive the version of climate change that corporations destroying our planet want them to believe. By offering us false solutions they are continuing to distract and divert us from real answers to the climate crisis, which is the reason we have had such slow progress against climate change thus far. This kind of green-washing is not unique to COP21, but is regular practice within our world - take for example the recent exposure of Volkswagen cheating carbon emissions tests, or the false assertions that fracking provides a 'clean' energy alternative with little damage to our environments.
During the COP21 negotiations in Paris I have seen police tear gas protesters, arrest people for speaking out against corporations, ban climate gatherings by the NGO sector, silence journalists and shut down direct action by civil society who are raising awareness about climate change.
What we are experiencing in Paris amounts to a corporate coup aimed at preventing progress and effective solutions to our climate crisis. Now more than ever we need to advocate for system change rather than climate change, with climate activists planning creative ways to inform the public not only of the false solutions on offer, but the real solutions that will lead to positive change in our world.