News that the COP21 climate change conference has produced a draft agreement to keep global warming below 2C has been met with scepticism by campaigners who called it a "fraud" and a "vague promise", and said the deal does not demand countries cut emissions fast enough. Although the conference has been branded a success after 16 hours of intense negotiations led to the creation of the draft text, critics said the document lacks serious binding agreements and is therefore at risk of becoming a "toothless and ineffective agreement".
Up to 10,000 people have defied a protest ban and taken to the streets of France's capital Paris, where the conference is being held, to demand more is done to combat greenhouse gas emissions and provide justice for communities impacted by climate change. Activists gathered near the Eiffel Tower to denounce the global climate accord as insufficient to protect the planet.
Nick Dearden, director of campaign group Global Justice Now said: "It's outrageous that the deal that's on the table is being spun as a success when it undermines the rights of the world's most vulnerable communities and has almost nothing binding to ensure a safe and livable climate for future generations. In fact, the deal as it stands in the context of INDCs [Intended Nationally Determined Contributions] that have been submitted sets us firmly on the path to a devastating three degrees of global warming.
"Years ago it was the brinksmanship of the USA that lead to the Kyoto Protocol becoming a toothless and ineffective agreement, which they didn't even ratify. History has repeated itself in Paris, as the USA, with the support of the EU and the other rich nations, have ensured that the most important parts of the treaty are either stripped out of the text entirely or watered down to the point of meaninglessness," he added.
The full text of the draft document was released today. Speaking on the specifics of the proposed deal, Deardon said: "Critical issues such as binding emissions reductions, legal responsibilities for loss and damage, and the recognition of human rights are all conspicuously absent from the main body of the text."
His sentiments were echoed by other campaign groups, including Oxfam, who said the deal is set to short-change the world's most vulnerable people. Executive Director Helen Szoke said: "Only the vague promise of a new future climate funding target has been made, while the deal does not force countries to cut emissions fast enough to forestall a climate change catastrophe," the BBC reported.
Elsewhere, Oscar Reyes, climate policy analyst for the Institute for Policy Studies said: "While rich countries have been talking up their 'ambition', the reality is that big polluters like the United States are promising climate pollution cuts that amount to only a fifth of what we should be doing. He added: "Greenhouse gas 'neutrality' is just the latest fudge to avoid talking about the fact that climate change requires us to keep fossil fuels in the ground."
Meanwhile, one of the leading voices in the global fight against climate change, former Nasa scientist James Hansen branded the talks "a fraud" saying the conference was too reliant on promises rather than action.
"It's a fraud really, a fake," the 74-year-old told the Guardian. "It's just b******t for them to say: 'We'll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.' It's just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned," he added.
While campaign groups reacted to the draft document, thousands of activists gathered on the streets of Paris to take part in what was billed as a "climate disobedience" event. The protesters carried giant red banners to symbolise the "red lines" that they urged delegates not to cross in order to reach an agreement.
So far the protests have been peaceful, although there has been talk of planned acts of civil disobedience in recent days. The street protests have seen campaigners defy the ban on public demonstrations implemented by France under the state of emergency in the wake of the Paris attacks on November 13.
A statement released yesterday by campaign group 350.org, which is coordinating the event, said: "This gathering is about respect. We know that our leaders have shown little respect – not for the rights of people on a planet torn by inequality and racism, not for the red lines for a just and liveable planet. Lines we should dare not violate. So we will stand with our own bodies to draw red lines, committed to protect our common home from burning up."
Under state of emergency powers, the French government is understood to have the power to dissolve any organisations that participate in street demonstrations. Those who refuse to disperse face up to a year in prison and fines of up to €15,000 (£10,850).