Sunday, 29 November 2015

Huge security operation in Paris under way as world leaders arrive for climate change conference

David Cameron and Prince Charles are among nearly 150 world leaders due in Paris to attend a conference on climate change opening on Monday amid intense security two weeks after France’s worst terror attacks.
Major roads into the French capital will be closed on Sunday and Monday. About 2,800 police and soldiers are guarding the hermetically sealed conference venue near Le Bourget airport, north of Paris. Another 6,300 officers are deployed in the city, still reeling from the coordinated onslaught by suicide bombers on restaurants, a concert hall and the national football stadium in which 130 people died.
Prince Charles arrives today and will address the opening session of the two-week UN conference. He is expected to repeat his warning that climate change is partly responsible for conflicts such as Syria. Many other world leaders are also staying in Paris for what will be the largest climate gathering of heads of state and government ever, despite security concerns.
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Prince Charles will also venture into central Paris tomorrow to visit the august academic institution, the Institut de France, on the left bank of the Seine, where he will receive the Prix François Rabelais for his commitment to organic farming and environmental protection. He will stay in Paris until Tuesday when he will speak at a session on forests.
But many leaders will spend only a few hours at Le Bourget and few will visit central Paris before leaving national delegations to pursue more detailed discussions about climate change.
In all, more than 40,000 people are expected to attend the two-week conference, including scientists, exhibitors and journalists.

With France still under a state of emergency, the authorities have cancelled two major rallies that had been planned for today and December 12, because of security fears. At least 24 climate activists have been placed under house arrest, using the emergency powers invoked after the Paris attacks.
Organisers now plan to create a two-kilometre (1.2-mile) human chain by linking hands along the route of the cancelled march in central Paris today. They will break the chain as they pass the Bataclan concert hall, the scene of the worst attack, which claimed 90 lives, as a mark of respect to the victims.
Activists also plan to leave scores of shoes on Place de la République, a rallying point near most of the places that were attacked, to symbolise the frustration of the thousands of people who had planned to march. One pair of shoes will be placed on behalf of Pope Francis, inscribed with his name and the title of his recent encyclical on the dangers of global warming.
Motorways and key roads near the Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports are closed to all but official traffic, as are main routes from central areas to Le Bourget conference centre.
The road closures will affect the A1 and A6 motorways near Paris and the Périphérique circular road around the city. Heavy goods vehicles will be banned from the entire Paris area from noon today until midnight tomorrow.
Initially the authorities urged Parisians to leave their cars at home today and tomorrow and take public transport instead, which will be free on both days.
However, the authorities are now effectively asking people to stay at home, urging them not even to take public transport “except in case of necessity”. The Paris police chief, Michel Cadot, said the new advice issued on Friday was to avoid “congestion on the roads and consequently on public transport networks”.

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The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, said: “The security precautions are very important and companies are being asked to adjust working hours and use of vehicles in consequence.”
However, the mayor of Le Bourget, Vincent Capo-Canellas, complained that the revised instructions came “a bit late” and would penalise both companies and residents. He advised people to take leave on Monday under a French system that allows employees to take paid rest days if they work more than 35 hours a week.
Soldiers with machine guns have become a common sight in Paris this year. Even before security was stepped up for the conference, about 5,000 troops were already patrolling the streets of the capital, 1,500 of whom were deployed after the slaughter this month, the others after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris 10 months ago, in which 17 people died.

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Some 8,000 police and soldiers are guarding the borders of France, which reinstated border controls just before the Paris attacks as a temporary measure for the conference. Normally its borders are open to all of its neighbours except Britain under the Schengen agreement on free movement.
A total of 120,000 police and soldiers are now deployed across the country in the wake of the Paris attacks, the interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, said. The state of emergency will stay in place until February.

Among the first world leaders to arrive was Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, who landed on Friday with his wife and a retinue of officials.
Normally banned from travelling to the EU because of human rights abuses, Mr Mugabe is being allowed to attend the meeting because he currently holds the rotating chairmanship of the African Union. A western diplomatic source commented: “It may be a rare shopping opportunity, a chance for them to stock up on designer goods and luxuries.”

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