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Activists at Paris Talks Call for Fossil Fuel Divestment

  • Luis Ramirez

With heads of state now gone, delegates to the Paris climate conference are getting down to work on the details of a strategy to combat global warming.

Demonstrators outside the conference venue said they had a clear idea of how to go about it.

"We want the leaders to divest away from fossil fuels," said Clemence Dubois of the activist group 350.org. "So, for instance, we expect them to cut all the subsidies. ... We expect all the institutions to take away their money out of destructive industries, which are fossil fuel industries."

Inside the conference, there was a sympathetic ear at a panel discussion.

"Every one of us needs to act on this, the greatest challenge of our time," said Stephen Heintz of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. "And divesting from fossil fuels not only is morally imperative, it is economically rational."

But for developing nations, easing dependence on coal and other fossil fuels — and converting to more expensive green technologies — is easier said than done.

Richer nations must come in to ease the burden to enable poorer countries to meet emissions goals. That was the message from India’s leader at the start of the summit.

“The prosperous [countries] still have a strong carbon footprint," said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "And the world's billions at the bottom of the development ladder are seeking space to grow. So the choices are not easy. But we have awareness and technology. We need now national will and a genuine global partnership.”

The technology is on display at the town of Loos-en-Gohelle in northern France, once a coal-producing region. In less than two decades, the coal mines have given way to solar panels, rainwater harvesting systems and energy-efficient lighting.

"What is specific to Loos-en-Gohelle is that we are a symbol of yesterday's world, the world of coal, and we have contributed to global warming," said Jean-Francois Caron, the town's mayor. " ... We are children of nonsustainable development, since we contributed to this."

As delegates work toward an agreement by the end of the summit next week, the town has been serving as an example — showing visiting delegations that the planet’s future does not have to be gray.

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