Apart from the actual negotiations and the side events organised by NGOs, parties and other organisations that are all restricted to accredited visitors (delegations, observers, press), #COP21 offers two spaces that are accessible to the general public. Without the dreadful events of 13 November, these spaces would have been an opportunity for Parisian school classes to visit the COP and learn about climate change. However, for security reasons, those activities were cancelled.
The first venue for everyone to attend is the Climate Generations Area, a large exhibition space that offers loads of information and activities. One can stroll through the stands, pedal on a bike for some fruit juice, watch documentaries, listen to “solar sun music” and get involved in discussions about the many presentations and dialogues. There is information about different aspects of climate change, such as its impact on the clown fish and the oceans in general, on indigenous people, women and youth and on what the Paris Agreement should contain to recognise, ensure and foster their rights. Also, there is information on how communities and trade associations can play an essential role in mitigating and adapting to climate change. You can playfully learn about renewable energies and the technology behind them, eat organic French galette or just enjoy the lively atmosphere in this area.
A second venue is the so-called Gallery, for which a preliminary registration is required. Here, enterprises and research institutions showcase their technological innovations that support the transformation to a low carbon or zero emission world. This ranges all the way from enhanced plastic recycling and a circular economy, over electric vehicles and solar energy to possibilities for a sustainably built environment. Unfortunately, here as well as in the actual #COP21 area, the nuclear power lobby promotes their oh-so-low-carbon energy as a solution for a zero emission economy. On a good note, we’ve seen their booths mainly empty and none of the side events focusing on the transformation from fossil to renewable energy mentioned nuclear power as a (bridge) option or even a necessity for energy security.