The Swedish climate campaigner, Greta Thunberg, told thousands of people in Glasgow this afternoon that the COP26 conference had turned into a PR event and a global green wash festival.
The 18-year-old was speaking at a rally in George Square attended by more than 10,000 people:
“It is not a secret that CoP26 is a failure. It should be obvious that we cannot solve a crisis with the same methods that got us into it in the first place and more and more people are starting to realise this.
“Many are starting to ask themselves ‘What will it take for the people in power to wake up?’
“But let’s be clear – they are already awake. They know exactly what they are doing. They know exactly what priceless values they are sacrificing to maintain business as usual.”
Greta Thunberg said leaders were not leading but “actively creating loopholes” to benefit themselves and continuing profiting from a destructive system.” She said:
“The COP has turned into a PR event, where leaders are giving beautiful speeches and announce fancy commitments and targets while behind the curtains the governments of the global north countries are still refusing to take any drastic climate action.
“It seems like their main goal is to continue to fight for the status quo. This is now a global greenwash festival. A two week long celebration of business as usual and blah blah blah.
“The most affected people in the most affected areas still remain unheard. And the voices of future generations are drowning in their greenwash and empty words and promises.”
She said the world needed “immediate drastic annual emissions cuts, unlike anything the world had ever seen” to minimise the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions.
At current emissions rates, she said, the best chance to staying below the limit of 1.5C of warming will be gone within the end of this decade.
Today’s rally, which followed a march through the city centre from Kelvingrove Park, called for:
- no new investment in oil, gas and coal
- rapid emissions cuts from the global north to prevent warming above 1.5 degrees
- support for the global south to deal with climate impacts they didn’t cause
The huge crowd also heard from the Ugandan campaigner, Vanessa Nakate. She said her country was witnessing the impacts of the climate crisis first hand:
“I come from Kampala, Uganda, a country that has one of the fastest changing climates in the world.
“People are dying, children are dropping out of school, people’s farms are being destroyed.
“We are in a crisis, we are in a disaster that is happening every day.”
She said people must keep up pressure to hold world leaders accountable for climate change.
“Speed-up proposals” – COP26 president
The COP26 president, Alok Sharma, urged climate negotiators to speed up their work so that proposals would be ready for ministers attending the talks next week.
In a letter today, he said:
“The time to shift the mode of work is fast approaching. Next week represents a more political, high-level phase of the conference, with ministers arriving to help draw proceedings to a successful conclusion.”
The International Energy Agency said today that the net zero pledges and commitments to cut methane, if enforced, would limit global warming to 1.8C.
Its executive director, Fatih Birol, described this as “a big step forward, but much more needed”.
To meet the 1.5C limit at the centre of COP26’s aims, the world must cut carbon emissions by 45% by 2030. National plans submitted so far under the UN process will not be enough.
A study by Stockholm Environment Institute and the Institute for European Environmental Policy found that the carbon footprint of the world’s richest 1% would be 30 times higher than what’s needed to limit global warming to 1.5C.
Call for protection of right to protest
Police Scotland said officers would deal “swiftly and robustly” with any violent disorder and damage to property during the protests over the next few days. Large demonstrations are planned for tomorrow in a global day of action.
The COP26 Coalition of climate action groups has written to the Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, about what it says is heavy-handed policing outside the conference.
There are reports of officers threatening to arrest protesters for holding a banner, abusing stop and search powers, confiscating identification documents, carrying out intrusive surveillance and using kettling, where crowds are held in confined spaces sometimes for longer periods.
The COP26 Coalition said:
“As the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice on Saturday 6th November fast approaches, and we anticipate large numbers of protesters taking to the streets of Glasgow, we are asking you to ensure that all police forces operating in Scotland for the duration of COP26 commit to, and be held to, a set of truly rights-based principles
“Protecting the right protest, no routine surveillance, no excessive use of force, no targeting of the most vulnerable, no abuse of stop and search.”
Assistant Chief Constable Gary Ritchie, of Police Scotland, said of today’s march and rally:
“This was a really important day in the COP26 schedule and we were pleased to be part of such a memorable event for these young participants and for Glasgow. Our officers enjoyed engaging with young people, many have children of their own who were taking part in today’s march.
“Policing of this event was, as promised, proportionate, as has been our overall approach throughout COP26. Our officers stayed in the background but were there to support young people and be on hand if needed to ensure their safety.”
Tomorrow’s Global Day of Action march in Glasgow could attract 50,000 people.
Mr Ritchie said:
“We will be there to maintain the safety of the public and participants and to protect the rights of people who wish to peacefully protest or to counter-protest. These rights are always balanced against the rights of the wider community.”
Minister urges young people not to miss school
The UK education secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, urged young people not to miss school today. He said he’d rather they marched on Saturday and Sunday. He said it was important that young people engaged with world leaders and were “part of the solution”. But he said this should not be at the expense of missing schools.
Ms Sturgeon, paid tribute to young people who took part in the march rally. They were “powering this agenda”. Ms Sturgeon said:
“What I would say to people protesting today and tomorrow is be peaceful, make your voices heard, respect the citizens of the city but protest is a powerful part of any process of change and it particularly important at this time.”
Glasgow City Council and neighbouring authorities have said they will not censure young people who took part today.
Mr Zahawi also launched a sustainability and climate change strategy to embed climate change evidence in the school curriculum.
“All children will be taught about the importance of conserving and protecting our planet with teachers supported to deliver world-leading climate change education”
Plans were also announced for a climate leaders’ award recognising efforts to protect the environment.