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Demonstration in Paris before climate change summit

30 November, 2015

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PARIS: Riot police fired teargas on Sunday in clashes with far-left activists in Paris during a climate change demonstration after several thousand protesters formed a human chain in the city.

The clashes took place at a time when more than a hundred leaders from across the globe were flying in for a summit on climate change.

Riot police moved in after a small group of protesters pelted officers with bottles and candles from one of the tributes to the victims of the November 13 attacks on the French capital. Around 100 people were arrested.

Around 4,500 activists had earlier linked hands in a peaceful protest near the site of the deadliest of the attacks, pleading for leaders to curb global warming.

The colourful human chain passed near the Bataclan concert hall where 90 people were killed in the suicide bombings and shootings.

Stretching for two kilometres along a wind-blown Boulevard Voltaire in eastern Paris, it was the first organised demonstration since the attacks claimed by the militant Islamic State group in which 130 people died and hundreds were injured.

Out of respect for the dead, the protesters left a 100-metre gap in front of the mass of flowers and candles laid outside the Bataclan.

“Hear our voices! We are here!” cried the demonstrators ahead of the 195-nation UN summit being held just outside Paris, which aims to strike the first truly global accord to limit greenhouse emissions and avert a global climate disaster.

“For a climate of peace,” read banners held by the protesters, while another said: “We need to take care, there is no planet B.”

But around two hours after the human chain dispersed, anti-capitalist militants who had gathered in the nearby Place de la Republique square began to clash with police, reporters said.

A group of protesters wearing black hoods and scarves over their faces chanted “State of emergency, police state, you will not take away our right to protest”, referring to the measures restricting demonstrations that were introduced after the terrorist attacks.

As objects were thrown, police in riot gear formed lines to push them back and the air was filled with teargas.

Some 150 leaders, including US President Barack Obama, China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, will attend the official start on Monday of the UN conference tasked with reaching the first truly universal climate pact.

About 2,800 police personnel and soldiers will secure the conference site, and 6,300 others will deploy in Paris.

The goal of the climate talks is to limit average global warming to no more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), over pre-Industrial Revolution levels by curbing fossil fuel emissions blamed for climate change.

“I hope this time the conference will lead to something solid,” said protester Denis Diderot, a retired university teacher who joined the demonstration wearing a beret.

Rallies demanding curbs on carbon pollution have been growing around the world since Friday, with marches involving tens of thousands across Australia on Sunday kick-starting a final day of people-powered protest.

In a sign of the urgency, the start of the negotiations, conducted by bureaucrats, were brought forward to Sunday.

In the past week, the UN’s weather body said the average global temperature for the year 2015 is set to rise one degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, halfway towards the targeted UN ceiling.

Voluntary carbon-curbing pledges submitted by nations to bolster the Paris pact, even if fully adhered to, put Earth on track for warming of 2.7-3.5 degrees C, according to UN climate chief Christiana Figueres.

French President Francois Hollande, host of the November 30-December 11 talks, has warned of obstacles ahead for the 195 negotiating nations.

Potential stumbling blocks range from finance for climate vulnerable and poor countries to scrutiny of commitments to curb greenhouse gases and even the legal status of the accord.

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