Rather, after the horrific attacks of 13 November, it needed to determine whether it had the will and capacity to host the whole summit – with full participation from civil society, including in the streets. If it could not, it should have delayed and asked another country to step in. Instead the Hollande government has made a series of decisions that reflect a very particular set of values and priorities about who and what will get the full security protection of the state. Yes to world leaders, football matches and Christmas markets; no to climate marches and protests pointing out that the negotiations, with the current level of emission targets, endanger the lives and livelihoods of millions if not billions of people.
It is worth thinking about what the decision to cancel marches and protests means in real, as well as symbolic, terms. Climate change is a moral crisis because every time governments of wealthy nations fail to act, it sends a message that we in the global north are putting our immediate comfort and economic security ahead of the suffering and survival of some of the poorest and most vulnerable people on Earth. The decision to ban the most important spaces where the voices of climate-impacted people would have been heard is a dramatic expression of this profoundly unethical abuse of power: once again, a wealthy western country is putting security for elites ahead of the interests of those fighting for survival. Once again, the message is: our security is non-negotiable, yours is up for grabs.
The world has failed twenty times in a row to adequately address climate change. Another failure in Paris this year would have consequences in human suffering that massively dwarf what any terrorist group (or all global terrorism put together) is able to inflict.