“It’s been quite a day!
“With so much uncertainty about whether an agreement would be reached today or not, and with a changing picture of whether or not the French government would permit any kind of demonstration/peaceful action in the centre of Paris until very late last night, morning prayers were followed by a pow-wow about what the most effective use of our time today would be.
“We decided to head to the Le Bourget conference venue to test the lie of the land and see what we might be permitted to do there. What a great decision it turned out to be!
“The Gendarmes guarding the venue allowed us to access the delegates’ entrance area where we took lots of pictures of the display of flags of the participating countries (including the Holy See) with individual campaigners posing next to those that had a particular meaning for them.
“I hadn’t previously thought that we looked particularly unusual (just a normal bunch of CAFOD campaigners – oh, I see!) but we certainly attracted the attention of the arriving conference delegates, who acknowledged our greetings as they passed, came over to talk and even started taking photographs of us!
“The Ecuadorian delegate told one of us that, although he was not a believer, he had read Laudato Si’ and used it as a guide, before congratulating us for bringing our message to the conference.
“We were also extremely lucky that CAFOD’s Rob Elsworth and Neil Thorns (shown left both of whom were working at the conference) came out to give us a detailed briefing on the state of the negotiations and their expectations for the conclusion.
“Having decided not to test the patience of the Gendarmerie any further, we headed for the station and the Eiffel Tower, where the formation of a human chain had been approved by the government late the previous evening.
“We arrived in time to take our place in the chain with around 15,000 others (not bad for 14 hours’ notice!) and spent the next few hours singing, chanting and waving our banners in a good natured, peaceful and uplifting popular demand for those ensconsed in Le Bourget to conclude a fair and binding global agreement to cut carbon emissions that has the needs of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable at its heart.
“It was later evident from social media that at least some of those negotiators were aware of the scale and nature of the event.
“The final event of the day followed a walk over to St Francois Xavier church centre for a final briefing on the outcome of the conference and a review of the programme of activities that we have participated in over the last few days.
“We were again lucky that one of the Brazilian advisors, Moema Miranda, who has been working with CIDSE, agreed to talk with us and gave a clearly analytical but passionate and inspiring exposition of the implications of the Paris agreement and our role in taking what has been agreed forward into our own lives and communities.
“The consensus among all of the contributors was that, while the agreement has not nearly gone far enough, it is at least a start and a start that has a mandatory review and re-targeting built in. The onus is now, therefore, on each of us – individually and collectively – to take the initiative in our own lives and force our governments to follow.
“So we return home tomorrow tired but ready to get up on Monday morning to join a rejuvenated campaign of immediate action towards a long term strategy of climate justice.
“So that’s not quite it, then, is it? … But I’m really looking forward a decent cup of tea!”
Thank you so much Bill for these fab blogs and for giving us such a ‘fly on the wall’ perspective!