Civil society kicked out of COP25 climate talks after unexpected protest

What was initially just a speech by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres soon turned into chaos at the COP25 climate summit, as a group of 300 civil society representatives entered into the plenary of negotiations and started an unexpected protest.

Security officers don’t allow people to enter the plenary while the protest erupts. Credit: Fermin Koop.

Activists from non-governmental organizations, indigenous groups, and environmental NGOs organized a non-violent protest at the main hall where representatives from countries are trying to reach a deal over the rulebook of the Paris Agreement, signed in 2015 to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

“What’s happening at COP25 has nothing to do with addressing climate change. We all came together to ask for real solutions, not false ones. Industrialized countries have to step up. The planet is for grabs for CO2 colonialism,” Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, said after the protest.

UN head Guterres was giving a speech when activists entered the plenary, holding banners and singing songs to ask for climate action. But soon the mood changed. Dozens of security officials arrived and pushed the activists out of the climate talks, also taking away their badges to return on the remaining days of the summit.

The protest attracted the attention of everybody at COP25, who tried to enter the plenary to see what was happening. But soon more security officials blocked the access to the area, not allowing anybody to enter – even country delegates who had to get to the plenary to continue the negotiations.

“We’re here to demand rich governments like the U.S., EU, Canada, Australia, and Japan reduce emissions and provide support for impacted communities. The ones that created the climate crisis, and bear the historical and current responsibility, must act,” said the Women & Gender Constituency on a press release.

The mood is low among civil society at the COP25 climate talks. Key issues are not making any progress such as carbon markets, gender, human rights and loss and damage, all part of the Paris Agreement but yet to be defined. This might force to drag on the discussion on these issues to the next COP26 in the UK.

At the same time, NGOs have questioned throughout COP the need to raise ambition, as with the current climate pledges from countries global warming is set to reach between 3.5 and 5 degrees Celsius. They have specifically targeted Brazil, the US, China, India, and Saudi Arabia.

The clash between the police and the climate activists happened a few hours before Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg addressed the plenary at COP25, accusing countries and business leaders of using the climate talks “to negotiate loopholes” instead of acting on climate.

“People brought their frustration into the negotiations and they have been shut outside and not let back in. Indigenous people were fighting for their homes, opposed to loopholes. They need to be let back in. Everyone from civil society have to be welcomed at climate negotiations,” Greenpeace head Jennifer Morgan said.

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