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Climate Activists Scale Back Plans For U.N. Summit In Wake Of Paris Attacks


This month's terror attacks have complicated plans for the upcoming U.N. climate talks in Paris, mainly for climate activists. The talks will still happen, but many outdoor events have been canceled, including a demonstration on Sunday that 200,000 people had planned to attend. The Allegheny Front's Reid Frazier reports.

REID FRAZIER: For a full year, Angela Wiley has been preparing a Sierra Club youth group of 15 students to travel to Paris. This will be her fourth U.N. climate meeting. She started going to them in 2011 at the age of 20, and she is pumped.

ANGELA WILEY: This is the year. This is, like, the prom for me.

FRAZIER: That's because many climate activists like Wiley see these talks as the best hope to date for a big, binding climate deal. Wiley is a climate activist in Pittsburgh. When she learned of the attacks, her first thought was for a pair of friends in Paris. It turns out they were safe. Her next thought - what about the climate talks?

WILEY: I had a pretty immediate sinking feeling that it was a point of no return for a lot of efforts.

FRAZIER: A lot of those efforts, like lectures, conferences and meet-ups she was planning to go to, will still go on, but French officials have banned most public demonstrations, striking a blow to those who want to see a deal that sharply cuts carbon emissions. Jamie Henn is with the activists group 350.org. He says those demonstrations are important because they're one way for climate activists to help negotiators reach a strong climate deal.

JAMIE HENN: It's really helpful to have hundreds of thousands of people in the streets to point to when you're a politician.

FRAZIER: Last year, 300,000 marched in New York City during a U.N. climate summit. Other marches are planned around the world, but Sunday's march in Paris has now been canceled. That event was to feature native peoples from around the world. Dallas Goldtooth would've been one of them. He's with the Indigenous Environmental Network. He said the march might've given the climate movement its family portrait.

DALLAS GOLDTOOTH: We lose the opportunity to get that front page, you know, headline photo with a banner that basically describes, in a very succinct way, why we are there.

FRAZIER: Goldtooth's group is bringing canoes from native peoples from around the world to Paris. They were planning to paddle the canoes down a Parisian canal, but with new security measures, they may have to settle for a photo op. Activists are also bracing for decreased mobility around Paris. Colette Pichon Battle is with the Louisiana-based Gulf South Rising. Her group of activists - some of whom have never been outside the U.S. - had been planning to stay in apartments in the city, but for safety reasons, they're now staying in a dorm outside of Paris.

COLETTE PICHON BATTLE: There won't be anybody just sort of hopping on the train, going to experience Paris. We have to move now as a group.

FRAZIER: Which means less chance for them to meet fellow activists from around the world and share their stories. For NPR News, I'm Reid Frazier in Pittsburgh. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Reid Frazier