30 November 2015 | Category: COP21

The climate summit has begun…

By Bas Arts

Professor Forest and Nature Conservation Policy...

Had a special meeting at Place d’Anvers, near the Sacré-Coeur, last night. I went to have dinner with two students from the ‘green office’ of Wageningen University (and one student is the son of good friends of mine, which made it even more special). They are here in Paris to visit the large ‘Youth Conference’ on climate and to give shape to a project of theirs. They hitchhiked to Paris, or at least partly (it did not go so well…), and interviewed people about what they think of the climate summit along the way. Now they approach people on the streets of Paris. They let them write messages about the climate on pieces of cardboard, which in turn they take pictures of for an exhibition later. A great idea! Additionally, they – like me – write a blog, but then for the Resource, Wageningen University’s newspaper, and demonstrate (as far as that is allowed by the French police).

Yesterday they were also part of the large ‘climate chain’ on the Boulevard Voltaire, in which over 10,000 people participated, and 22,000 shoes (symbolic for all those people who were now unwilling or unable to participate following the recent attacks). Unfortunately, it also got a bit out of hand, on Place de la Republique (where else..!!), but that only involved a small group of activists. Moreover, the police here are now super nervous after the attacks, so it probably was a two-way issue. Too bad that little scuffle immediately turned up on the digital media, and not the vast majority of peaceful demonstrators forming an impressive, colourful ribbon in the Parisian streets.

Right now, I am sitting in Le Bourget, the conference centre where COP21 is being held. The trip over here, from the centre of Paris, near the Eiffel Tower, took more than 1.5 hours: two subways, a train and a bus. So far I had not noticed much of the state of emergency in the city, but that is over now. It started yesterday already in Montmartre, where we had dinner: groups of soldiers with machine guns on patrol. And around COP21 the security measures are almost incalculable. Roads are blocked, at every intersection there is police, checking in at COP21 is done as at an airport, etc. Currently I am in Hall 3, where the Dutch delegation has a pavilion. Tomorrow Wageningen UR will present themselves here. This afternoon it is Nijmegen, I just saw. It is presenting itself as the green city. Interesting, as a resident of that city, I had not been so aware of that… Unfortunately, I will miss this presentation, this afternoon I will be back at the FLARE congress for a workshop on the relationship between agricultural development and forests in the tropics.

Actually the summit is overwhelming. The site is the Amsterdam RAI squared. Somewhere world leaders are now speaking, but I have no clue where. In a minute I will try and see if I can enter there, but probably not. I have an accreditation as ‘observer’, on behalf of DLO (at least that is what my badge says). That means that only parts of the summit are accessible for me. Which is what I will go and find out now …

(two hours later)

World leaders, I did not find, however I did encounter a lot of people wandering about, clearly still finding their way. I also shook hands with a former student from Indonesia, who part of the national delegation (all the things a study at Wageningen University will lead you to…) and with Ron Linker of the NOS, but he already got a phone call after one minute of conversation, probably from the editorial office in Hilversum. I will just go back to my orderly little congress in the centre of Paris. Tomorrow I will need to be back at COP21 for the presentation in the ‘Dutch Climate House’…

Bas Arts is professor Forest and Nature Management at Wageningen University. During COP21 he is sharing his impressions of the conference and the events around it on this blog.

By Bas Arts

Professor Forest and Nature Conservation Policy

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