Climate protests: First the students, now adults in France
PARIS (AP) — While some yellow vest protesters rioted along a famed Paris avenue, elsewhere in the French capital an entirely different scene unfolded Saturday: tens of thousands of people marching peacefully to urge faster government action against global warming.
Families, movie stars, activists and politicians were among 30,000 people who demonstrated from the city’s famed Opera Garnier to the Republic Plaza. Some carried signs reading “There is no Planet B” and “Dinosaurs also thought they had time.”
It was among dozens of climate rallies around France on Saturday, the day after student climate protests took place in hundreds of cities in more than 100 nations.
Singing songs and holding hands, the French climate protesters were a sharp contrast with the violence on the Champs-Elysees avenue, where yellow vest protesters and troublemakers set fires, ransacked luxury boutiques and clashed with French riot police who were firing tear gas and water cannon to disperse them.
French President Emmanuel Macron made a passionate call this week to speed up the global fight against climate change. He sees himself as a guarantor of the 2015 Paris climate accord, and has stood up firmly to skepticism from U.S. President Donald Trump.
But activists say Macron’s government isn’t ambitious enough in cutting emissions. Scientists have warned for decades that current levels of greenhouse gas emissions are unsustainable, so far with little effect.
Saturday’s protest was part of what Greenpeace, Oxfam and two French environmental groups call “The Affair of the Century,” an activist effort they launched in December.
An online climate petition garnered more than 2 million signatures and backing from stars like Juliette Binoche and Marion Cotillard. The groups then filed legal action Thursday to try to take the state to court to speed up action against global warming.
Those moves can have political consequences, however.
The yellow vest protest movement is an example of the challenges of aggressive climate policy. It started out of anger over rises in fuel taxes that Macron said were necessary to wean France off using fossil fuels. Protesters said they disproportionately hit working classes in the provinces who rely on their cars to get to work, school, doctor’s offices and stores.
Macron later delayed the fuel tax hike because of the fierce protests.
Saturday’s marches came the day after angry students in more than 100 countries walked out of classes to protest what they see as the failures by their governments to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases.
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