The rising security concerns, following the terrorist attacks in Paris last week, are threatening to unsettle civil society participation in the upcoming landmark international conference on climate change in the French capital.

As a result of tight security, there is a strong possibility that a proposed Global March and several other demonstrations by civil society groups may either be curtailed, immobilized or banned altogether, according to several non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The Conference of Parties (COP-21), which is expected to be attended by nearly a hundred world leaders on opening day, is scheduled to take place November 30-December 11, with the adoption of a historic climate change treaty.

Over the last few years, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has continued to underline the importance of the conference in thwarting the impact of climate change worldwide – and specifically on developing countries.

Asked for his comments on the possible restrictions, UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq told IPS: “We hope for as much coverage and as much participation by civil society at the COP-21 events in Paris as is possible”.

Of course, he cautioned, “we are well aware of security concerns in France at this difficult time and we trust that security considerations can be handled in such a way that there will still be significant access to conference.”

Journalists who had applied for accreditation also fear there may be restrictions –due both to reasons of space and security, according to sources in Paris.

Basically, the conference site holds about 20,000 people in all – half from governments, half from the UN, NGOs and the press.

So there can’t be much more than 3,000 slots for journalists, given the amount of space available.

Jean-François Julliard, executive director of Greenpeace, France, told IPS Tuesday: “We’re still waiting for the French authorities to tell us if they think the march in Paris, and other mobilization moments around the climate talks, can be made safe and secure. Huge numbers are predicted for the Paris gathering.”

“We at Greenpeace want it to happen,” he said.

“But whatever is decided, in hundreds of towns and cities across the world, people will march for the climate, for Paris and for our shared humanity. It is a vision of human cooperation that the murderers sought to destroy on Friday night. Most certainly, they must fail,” Julliard said.

March or no march, in Paris thousands of people will use their collective imagination to project their voices into the UN climate talks, he added.

“And when they do, those voices will ring loud in the ears of the politicians inside that conference center. We will be heard by those in Paris and beyond who have it within their power to call time on the fossil fuel era,” Julliard declared.

At a press conference Monday, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric was asked about reports that over 1,000 journalists, including UN correspondents, may be shut out of the climate talks.

“Does that concern the Secretary General, that a possibly historic landmark occasion like this, thousands of journalists, including UN correspondents from this building, are being denied access to that conference?”

Dujarric said: “Obviously, we do want journalists there. I will check with our colleagues at UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change], who are managing the inscriptions for journalists, and I will get back to you.”

In a statement released Monday, ActionAid International said the Coalition CLIMAT 21 and all the organizations that are part of it express its solidarity with the victims of the 12 November in Beirut and those of 13 November in Paris, as well as their families and loved ones.

‘’The world we have always defended is not the one we saw on that night. The world that we defend is one of peace, justice, the fight against inequality and climate change.’’

‘’Our struggle for climate justice will not stop. We have a duty to stand up and continue to fight for a just and livable planet for all. We will continue to mobilize to build a world free of wars, and atrocities, and the ravages of the climate crisis. We will continue to bring solutions and alternatives to fight against climate change.’’

While taking into account the exceptional circumstances, CLIMAT 21 said, ‘’we believe that COP21 cannot take place without the participation or without the mobilizations of civil society in France. Thus, we will implement all our efforts to hold all the mobilizations currently planned. In consultation with the authorities, we will continue to ensure the security of all participants is guaranteed.’’

It is important to remember that this mobilization will be the global: hundreds of thousands of people will mobilize during the two weeks of negotiations of the COP21 and representatives from countries the world over will be present in Paris, the statement said.

‘’The whole world is concerned and we will not ignore these issues,’’ CLIMAT 21 declared.

Meanwhile, in a statement ahead of the climate talks, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that climate change is already causing tens of thousands of deaths every year – from shifting patterns of disease, from extreme weather events, such as heat-waves and floods, and from the degradation of air quality, food and water supplies, and sanitation.

‘’The upcoming UN Climate Change Conference (COP-21) in Paris offers the world an important opportunity to not only reach a strong international climate agreement, but also to protect the health of current and future generations. WHO considers the Paris treaty to be a significant public health treaty – one that has the potential to save lives worldwide.’’

In 2012, WHO estimated 7 million people died from air pollution-related diseases, making it the world’s largest single environmental health risk. It is predicted that climate change will cause an additional 250 000 deaths per year from malaria, diarrhoea, heat stress and under-nutrition between 2030 and 2050. Children, women and the poor in lower income countries will be the most vulnerable and most affected, widening health gaps.

(Inter Press Service)