GLASGOW — Climate activist Greta Thunberg declared the U.N. climate talks in Glasgow a flop, as thousands of climate campaigners marched through the COP26 host city on Friday.
“It is not a secret that COP26 is a failure,” Thunberg told protesters. “It should be obvious that we cannot solve a crisis with the same methods that got us into it in the first place.”
Taking issue with the credibility of a range of commitments made at the conference covering everything from ending coal use and cutting methane emissions to boosting climate finance and ending deforestation, Thunberg said: “This is no longer a climate conference. This is now a global north greenwash festival. A two-week-long celebration of business as usual and blah blah blah.”
During the day, Fridays for Future activists on school strike were joined by thousands of protesters carrying banners and signs reading “there is no planet B,” “no more blah blah blah” or “act now.”
“There need to be more ambitious changes. We cannot wait until 2050, we need changes now. That’s why we’re here, to push the governments, to push the leaders, to bring them the voice of youth,” said Maria Benites, a 25-year-old activist from Chile. “We understand that changes are sometimes difficult to get. But we need more people to understand that this is a crisis.”
Protesters marched within a few hundred meters of the COP26 venue, which was holding its “youth and public empowerment day,” with youth leaders talking to ministers and negotiators.
Activists hoped for progress at the summit but were skeptical that the promises of recent days would be kept.
“There is the will, there is the intention, but the sincerity of the intention can be debatable,” said Deniz, a 19-year-old Fridays for Future activist from Turkey, who is studying in Glasgow.
Officials at the conference were sympathetic but argued they were making headway.
“I understand that the young people are trying to push very hard to see concrete implementation and not only abstract goals that are formulated,” Jochen Flasbarth, Germany’s environment state secretary, told reporters. “However, we need such goals … and I also believe that this week we have heard a wide range of very concrete actions and projects.”
The protest’s headline demand was “climate justice,” and many activists said wealthy countries needed to step up.
“Climate change is strongest for the most vulnerable, who are also the least rich and who least caused it, so there is some social responsibility from first world nations,” said Daniel, a 26-year-old Colombian studying at Oxford. “The most vulnerable communities in Colombia, those closest to the coast and indigenous peoples, they’ve experienced climate change, they’ve seen it.”
Plenty of Scottish pupils, meanwhile, defied government calls for them to not skip school.
“I’m here because we’re the ones who are going to suffer if world leaders are only talking,” said Imogen, 10, whose friend was holding a sign reading “We have skipped our lessons to teach you one.”
Ava, 11, pointed out that Glasgow had experienced its hottest summer ever this year.
“It’s scary,” she said. “When the adults who caused this were younger, they didn’t have to worry about it. It’s us who will be hurt by this. That’s why we need to stand together and fix it.”
Esther Webber and Karl Mathiesen contributed reporting.
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