Greta Thunberg labels COP26 'failure' as youth demand action

Glasgow braces for climate protests on global day of action

By: AFP      Published: 09:31 AM, 6 Nov, 2021
Greta Thunberg labels COP26 'failure' as youth demand action
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks to the crowd in George Square the end point for the Fridays For Future rally in Glasgow, Scotland.–AFP

Swedish campaigner Greta Thunberg on Friday branded the UN climate summit in Glasgow a "failure" during a mass protest in the Scottish city demanding swifter action from leaders to address the emergency.

Thunberg said pledges from some nations made during COP26 to accelerate their emissions cuts amounted to little more than "a two-week-long celebration of business as usual and blah, blah, blah".

"It is not a secret that COP26 is a failure," she told the thousands of people at the protest. 

"This is no longer a climate conference. This is now a global greenwashing festival."

Delegates from nearly 200 countries are in Glasgow to hammer out how to meet the Paris Agreement goals of limiting temperature rises to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius. 

The first week of talks saw countries announce plans to phase out coal use and to end foreign fossil fuel funding, but there were few details on how they plan the mass decarbonisation scientists say is needed.

The promises followed a major assessment that showed global CO2 emissions are set to rebound in 2021 to pre-pandemic levels.

"They cannot ignore the scientific consensus and they cannot ignore us," said Thunberg.

"Our leaders are not leading. This is what leadership looks like," she said gesturing to the crowd.

Two days of demonstrations are planned by activist groups to highlight the disconnect between the glacial pace of emissions reductions and the climate emergency already swamping countries across the world.

- Some progress -

Onlookers to Friday's march lined the streets and hung out of windows to watch the stream of protesters, who held banners reading "No Planet B" and "Climate Action Now".

"I'm here because the world leaders are deciding the fate of our future and the present of people that have already been impacted by climate crisis," said 18-year-old Valentina Ruas.

"We won't accept anything that isn't real climate policy centred on climate justice."

Students were out in force, with some schools allowing pupils to skip lessons to see the march and one young green warrior holding a placard that read: "Climate change is worse than homework".

Experts say a commitment made during the high-level leaders' summit at the start of COP26 by more than 100 nations to cut methane emissions by at least 30 percent this decade will have a real short-term impact on global heating. 

But environmental groups pointed out that governments, particularly wealthy polluters, have a habit of failing to live up to their promises. 

Vanessa Nakate told the crowd that people in her native Uganda were "being erased" by climate change.

"People are dying, children are dropping out of school, farms are being destroyed," she said. 

"Another world is necessary. Another world is possible."

- 'Take responsibility' - 

Countries came into COP26 with national climate plans that, when brought together, put Earth on course to warm 2.7C this century, according to the UN. 

With just 1.1C of warming so far, communities across the world are already facing ever more intense fire and drought, displacement and economic ruin wrought by the Earth's heating climate.

"Scientists have done what they need to do, they've told us about the problem. Young people have done what they need to do by calling attention to this issue," said Natalie Tariro Chido Mangondo, a Zimbabwean climate and gender advocate. 

"And it's just up to our leaders to get their act together."

Campaigners say they expect up to 50,000 demonstrators in the Scottish city on Saturday as part of a global round of climate protests.

A spokesman from Police Scotland said there were "fewer than 20 arrests made" as of Friday night, mainly for public disorder offences.

Glasgow braces for climate protests

Glasgow was on Saturday bracing for a second day of protests against what campaigners say is a lack of urgency to address global warming after Greta Thunberg labelled the crunch UN climate summit there a "failure".

Organisers and police said they expected up to 50,000 people in the streets of the Scottish city as part of about 200 protests worldwide demanding immediate action for communities already hit by the fallout of our heating planet.

Delegates from nearly 200 countries are in Glasgow to hammer out how to meet the Paris Agreement goals of limiting temperature rises to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius.

At the halfway stage of the COP26 negotiations, some countries have signed up to pledges to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, with separate deals on phasing out coal, ending foreign fossil fuel funding and slashing methane.

The promises followed a major assessment that showed global CO2 emissions are set to rebound in 2021 to pre-pandemic levels.

Activists were unimpressed during Friday's march.

"They cannot ignore the scientific consensus and they cannot ignore us," said Thunberg.

"This is no longer a climate conference. This is now a global greenwashing festival."

Security has been boosted around Glasgow's locked down city centre ahead of Saturday's march, which is expected to draw a variety of groups including Extinction Rebellion.

"Many thousands of us are marching right across the world today to demand immediate and serious action," said Scottish activist Mikaela Loach. 

"We're clear that warm words are not good enough -- and that the next week of talks must see a serious ramping up of concrete plans."

- 'Can't go on today' -

COP26 negotiations will continue on Saturday before taking a pause on Sunday ahead of what is shaping up to be a frantic week of shuttle diplomacy, as ministers arrive to push through hard-fought compromises on a number of issues.

Countries still need to flesh out how pledges made in the Paris deal work in practice, including rules governing carbon markets, common reporting timeframes and transparency. 

Countries came into COP26 with national climate plans that, when brought together, put Earth on course to warm 2.7C this century, according to the UN.

With just 1.1C of warming so far, communities across the world are already facing ever more intense fire and drought, displacement and economic ruin wrought by global heating.

Brianna Fruean, a Samoan member of the Pacific Climate Warriors, who addressed a world leaders' summit at the start of COP26, said it was time for leaders to take note of protesters' demands.

"It can't go on like this," she said. 

"We refuse to be just victims to this crisis. We are not drowning, we are fighting and on Saturday the world will hear us."

AFP

Agence France-Presse is an international news agency.