Parts of a major business district just outside of Paris city limits were “paralyzed” Friday when more than 2,000 climate campaigners staged what organizers described as one of France’s largest ever acts of civil disobedience.
“We want to show that in reality, it is here that France’s climate policy is decided, in the offices of the big bosses.”
—Clément Sénéchal, Greenpeace France
Peaceful demonstrators descended on La Défense to protest government complicity and companies fueling the global climate crisis.
Carrying signs that condemned Emmanuel Macron as “president of polluters,” the protesters blocked access to the buildings of three major businesses and the Ministry for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition.
The direct action was organized by Action Non-Violente (ANV) COP21 and the French chapters of Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, but members of at least 14 climate groups reportedly joined the mass mobilization.
“Through this action of extraordinary civil disobedience, the French climate movement denounces the toxic alliance that Emmanuel Macron and his government maintain with the large companies whose activity accelerates climate change, while radical and immediate action is needed to limit global warming to +1.5°C by the end of the century,” organizers said in a statement in French, referencing a key target of the Paris climate accord.
The demonstration in France came as the climate activism group Extinction Rebellion is spearheading an International Rebellion Week featuring similar civil disobedience in London. The group’s French arm supported the action Friday:
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The three companies campaigners targeted were fossil fuel giant Total, a major producer of planet-warming emissions; investment bank Société Générale, which pours billions of dollars into dirty energy projects each year; and Électricité de France (EDF), the state-run electric utility that, according to protest organizers, produces only about 10 percent of renewable energy compared with more than 70 percent of nuclear energy.
“Instead of regulating the activities of these polluting multinationals, Emmanuel Macron is rolling out the red carpet!” said Cécile Marchand of Friends of the Earth France.
Marchand pointed out that last year, Macron’s government gave Total the green light to import palm oil, despite the European Parliament’s decision to ban such imports by 2021. She also slammed government investment in nuclear power and failures to block big banks from funding dirty energy development.
The French president, Marchand said, “firmly defends banks like Société Générale against any attempt to regulate and refuses to supervise them to put an end to their investments in fossil fuels.”
“By displaying Emmanuel Macron at La Défense, and blocking the activity of several strategic locations in this business district,” said Greenpeace France climate campaign manager Clément Sénéchal, “we want to show that in reality, it is here that France’s climate policy is decided, in the offices of the big bosses.”
The blockades in France came as students across the globe skipped classes and took to the streets as part of the weekly #FridaysForFuture school strikes—inspired by the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg’s solitary protests launched last year to demand bolder efforts from global policymakers to stave off climate catastrophe.