Nature Congress – Day 1: A summit for whom, for what?

The World Conservation Congress takes place from 3 to 11 September in Marseille. Two journalists from Report is present at this event around biodiversity, and offers daily monitoring.

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Marseille (Bouches-du-Rhône), report

Until the last minute, I saw my emails and voicemails. But at 9.05 I have to face the facts: despite my repeated requests, I will not be allowed to board the boat that takes Emmanuel Macron to visit Calanques National Park. Essen ! It seems that the President of the Republic does not like too much the biodiversity of the press, too very few journalists were able to follow his trip to Marseille.

Thus, while the head of state assured it we will be the first, the 1steh January next year, to no longer have plastic around our fruits and vegetables »I went to the press conference organized by Survival, to cancel the World CongressIUCN. Indigenous peoples do not have access to passports or visas, they are completely excluded from this kind of international conferencesexplains Fiore Longo, spokesman forNGO. They are invisible. »

An over-politicized Congress ? This is also the opinion of Chloé Gerbier, a lawyer in the association Our Affair with All, and a member of Extinction Rebellion. She was to attend one of the summits on Friday 10 September. Except that at the beginning of the week she learned that her accreditation had been rejected. By looking for the reason for this refusal, I was informed that it would be associated with a negative opinion from the prefecture due to my militant activities. », she says. Was there political will to silence dissenting voices ? No way to verify this hypothesis, but the activist does not hide his skepticism: This congress is above all a political summit, centered on communication. When we see that lots of polluting companies have to come and give themselves a good conscience, and when we know that none of the commitments that could be announced will be binding, it gives the impression of a huge gap in relationships to the ecological emergency. … and it’s scary. »

I decide to go to the Business Leaders Summit, organized byIUCN this Friday afternoon. This was without expecting the Marseille transport to be significantly slowed down by the arrival of the head of state, nor by the technical confusion at the entrance to the exhibition center – the organizers’ computers were apparently not ready to welcome the thousands of new delegates. Two hours later, I flopped down in a soft armchair in Hall 9, just in time to listen to the Minister for Ecological Transformation, Barbara Pompili: I do not intend to lecture you, because as business leaders you are aware of the seriousness of the situation, she says. You know we can ‘t keep the business going as usual. “After him, several leaders – including Antoine Arnault, of LVMHAntoine Frérot, Veolia, or Jean-Marc Lévy, head ofEDF – go up to the podium. We are talking about green growth, bio-energy »and regeneration ».

Josefa Sanchez: “{“ In the forests where we live, wind projects are developed without actual consultation or participation of the local population. One of these giant parks is carried by EDF “. © Lorène Lavocat / Reporterre. »/

I then think back to Josefa Sanchez, whom I met in the morning during the meeting with Survival. She came especially from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, in Mexico: In the forests where we live, wind projects are developed on the lands of our local community without actual consultation or participation of the local population, she told me. One of these giant parks is carried by EDFwhich thus claims to be fighting against climate change. » She doubts that Congress inIUCN allow a change: This kind of summit is part of the problem rather than the solution because it allows some to clear their conscience. But in fact, under the pretext of defending the climate or biodiversity, these big companies are seizing our land and exploiting our resources. It is unfair that it is up to us, indigenous peoples, to pay the price for an ecological crisis that we have not caused. “.

Is there then nothing to expect from our leaders ? In the wake of Mr Macron’s maritime journey, he has indicated that he wants to expand the strong protection zones in the Mediterranean, which he wants to increase to 5 % of total in 2027, from 0.2 % currently. And he has also reused his old green promises, declaring that he will launch an accelerated exit from pesticides at European level without further details. And he remembered that he maintained his opposition to the agreement EU-Mercosur, with Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay … while leaving the door open for the renegotiation of this free trade agreement: We can not conclude it like that today » he said, believing it our trade policy must include mirror clauses on the climate plan and on the biodiversity plan ».

As for Barbara Pompili and Bérangère Abba, Foreign Minister for Biodiversity, they announced job creation: In 2022, the national parks will benefit from a reinforcement of 20 ETPT (Full-time equivalents worked) “says their press release.

Minister Barbara Pompili announces another twenty posts in the national parks. © Nicolas Tucat /AFP.

The announcement makes Frédéric Goulet laugh, watchdog at the Parc des Ecrins and a member of the union NESUSF. I find him in a small union office behind the old harbor: We’ve been cutting jobs for years while increasing our missions … so these 20 extra jobs, we accept them of course, but that’s a measure. » According to him, these chronic cuts in the workforce have weakened the preservation of the environment: Today we are no longer able to really protect our areas. At home we went from 7 to 5 guards, with additional missions, especially on local consultation. So there are things that we no longer do, or do less well: monitoring, environmental education, monitoring of species … » Under these circumstances, the government’s desire to increase the number of protected areas leaves him wondering: We can make sensational announcements, but we have to put the funds behind it, he says. The new forest park will have 30 agents, whereas in most parks we are 70 or even 80 … Some natural sea parks have for several years only worked with citizen service. We do not make such protection. » According to the union, almost 11,000 positions have been cut in the Ministry of Ecology since 2011.

At the biodiversity demonstration. © Lorène Lavocat / Reporterre.

With several dozen agents from the ministry, Frédéric Goulet therefore went to Marseille to take part in a demonstration to condemn the passivity of leaders in the face of the ecological crisis ». During an almost tropical rain, I find at this demonstration the banners for Survival, Alternatiba, Attac and Extinction Rebellion.

As the procession rushes toward the harbor, a few miles away, in the exhibition hall’s large auditorium, the CongressIUCN launched with great fanfare. I look at my computer screen Mme Pompili talks about afforestation, agroecology ; I listen to the head of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde, remember that our economies are dependent on nature » ; I am the very liberal Greek Prime Minister, Mr Mitsotakis, to commit to protect 10 % of the seas against fishing ». As for the French President of the Republic, he announced the forthcoming organization of a new summit on the oceans – the One Ocean Summit. When I hear that, I can not help but think of Florian, an activistANVCOP21encountered earlier in the demo: We come to condemn another congress from which nothing concrete is coming out. Instead of large masses, we need decisions and, above all, actions that are commensurate with the crisis. »

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