Thousands of young people marched through the streets of Glasgow on Friday to protest a lack of climate action with a clear message to negotiators at the COP26 summit: “If not now, when?”
Two days of demonstrations are planned to highlight the disconnect between the glacial pace of emissions reductions and the climate emergency already swamping countries across the world.
Large crowds organised by the Fridays for Future global strike movement began marching through Glasgow city centre, with high-profile campaigners Greta Thunberg and Vanessa Nakate expected to address the masses. Onlookers lined the streets and hung out of windows to watch the stream of protestors, 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.” Sixteen-year-old Beth Donaldson said young people were fed up with hollow promises from leaders.
“We see on the TV all these political leaders saying they’re going to take action but we never see what action they’re actually going to take,” she said. School children 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”.
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 UN-led process requires countries to commit to ever-increasing emissions cuts, and urges richer, historical emitters to help developing countries fund their energy transformations and deal with climate impacts. Countries issued two additional pledges on Thursday to reduce their fossil fuel consumption.
Twenty nations, including major financiers the United States and Canada, promised to end overseas fossil fuel funding by the end of 2022. And over 40 countries vowed to phase out coal – the most polluting fossil fuel – although details were vague and a timeline for doing so not disclosed.
The promises followed a major assessment that showed global CO2 emissions are set to rebound in 2021 to pre-pandemic levels. Thunberg herself was not impressed, tweeting after the twin announcements: “This is no longer a climate conference. This is a Global North greenwash festival.”
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 climate promises. “I expect this protest to remind world leaders and negotiators and politicians that young people are watching them,” said Brianna Fruean, 23, from Western Samoa. 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.
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