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Global Protests Demand Climate Justice as World Leaders Open Pivotal Paris Summit

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More than half a million people took part in rallies around the world ahead of today’s opening of the 21st United Nations climate change summit in Paris, France. President Obama and more than 100 other heads of state have arrived for two weeks of negotiations aimed at reaching an accord on global warming. Sunday’s global day of action for climate justice saw protesters rally in countries including Colombia, Australia, Greece, Mexico, Brazil, the Philippines, Chile, Kenya, Canada and Britain. Broadcasting from the Paris summit, we air some of their voices.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting live from Paris, France, on the opening day of the 21st United Nations climate change summit. President Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and more than a hundred other heads of state from around the world have arrived to open the two weeks of negotiations aimed at reaching an accord to avert the most devastating impacts of global warming. The opening of the conference comes as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projects that 2015 will be the hottest global year on record. President Obama addressed the conference just before we went to air.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I’ve come here personally, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and the second-largest emitter, to say that the United States of America not only recognizes our role in creating this problem, we embrace our responsibility to do something about it.

AMY GOODMAN: The historic climate summit begins two weeks after the November 13th attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people. The self-proclaimed Islamic State claimed responsibility. France remains under a three-month state of emergency, which has given the police unprecedented powers to conduct thousands of house searches and raids they say are aimed at stopping terrorism. But activists say the police have conducted indiscriminate raids in Muslim communities. Environmental activists have also had their homes raided. At least 24 climate justice activists have been placed under house arrest.

All protests in France have been banned. Up to 200,000 people were expected to march in Paris on Sunday, but authorities prohibited the march from taking place. But around the world, more than half a million people took to the streets in a global day of action calling for climate justice, including in Bogotá, Colombia; Sydney, Australia; Athens, Greece; Mexico City; along the Equator in Kenya; and even on a glacier in southern Chile. In London, where 50,000 people rallied, opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour Party spoke about the connection between world conflicts and the increasing scarcity of resources due to climate change.

JEREMY CORBYN: It’s always the issue, because the issue is about the world in which we live, and it’s also about the resources that we use. And there are some aspects of the terrible conflicts around the world that are related to the competition for resources. So, it’s important in many ways. But I think the attendance here today, on a wet November morning, is absolutely brilliant, and I take my hat off, literally, to all those that have come.

AMY GOODMAN: In Brazil, protesters covered themselves with mud and laid on the ground to symbolize the River Doce, which was recently flooded by toxic chemicals when a dam burst at a massive iron mine, killing more than a dozen people and contaminating the river with mercury.

GUTO MACEDO: [translated] What happened was an environmental crime, like so many others which the governments and world leaders perpetuate. I want them to hear us, the buried ones, that we will not put up with anymore.

AMY GOODMAN: In Manila, in the Philippines, protesters called attention to the devastating impact drastic sea level rise would have in the Philippines.

ANNA ABAD: Internationally, the Philippines has always ranked consistently at the top of climate risk indices, and that makes us vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. We are already experiencing it at the present, and we know that that’s the reason why we are marching here for today, to demand for climate justice.

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