'Climate change cop out': 100,000 protesters march through Glasgow

Activists said policymakers' pledges were 'not enough' to solve the environment crisis

More than 100,000 climate change protesters marched through Glasgow on Saturday to demand bolder global action from policymakers convening at the UN Cop26 environment summit.

Despite being battered by wind and rain and temperatures of 9°C, about 100,000 activists, students, families and the retired walked through the city centre carrying banners, flags and shouting slogans to make their voice heard.

Dorothy Guerrero, head of policy at Global Justice Now and a member of the co-ordinating committee of the Cop26 Coalition, said the march is being replicated in 50 cities around the globe.

“This is the world telling the negotiators that we think that what they are they are pledging to each other is not enough,” said Ms Gueterrero, who is originally from the Philippines but has lived in Kent, in the UK, for the past 20 years.

“They are discussing reaching net zero by 2050 but that is wrong because they should aim for zero by 2030.”

Ms Gueterrero said net zero allows the "big and historic emitters" to continue polluting the environment and "fossil fuel corporations to continue emitting".

“What we need to do is get to zero as soon as possible,” she said.

Carrying banners with slogans such as “no more greenwashing”, “honour environmental debts”, “the house is on fire” and “we are watching you”, different campaign groups marched through the streets, with some singing and others chanting or banging drums.

Others chanted in favour of socialism, punching their fists in the air and using megaphones to amplify their voice while a separate protester pushed a wheelie bin with the message “No more Blah”.

Several campaigners dressed up in costumes, with one wearing a rabbit onesie carrying a red sign that read “Cop out: don’t let Australia get away with empty promises”.

There were also a number of placards dedicated to the South Pacific island nations such as the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu that have been particularly affected by climate change.

The demonstration was so large that much of the city was cordoned off to traffic to allow the protesters to pass through safely.

Police presence was high, with a helicopter also hovering overhead as the demonstrators made their way from the city's Kelvingrove Park towards the central George Square.

While some protesters were local to Scotland, coming from Glasgow itself or Edinburgh, others had travelled long distances to attend the rally.

Phil Joyce, 68, from Andover in Hampshire, walked from the south of England to Scotland with a group of 10 Spaniards, who arrived from Spain at the start of the month.

Wheeling his bike with a sign on it that says “March 2 Glasgow”, Mr Joyce, a retired electrical engineer who runs local Extinction Rebellion groups in his home town, said the group covered 1,062 kilometres (660 miles) through the UK in October.

“They were coming because they were very concerned about the fires and heat stroke people are suffering in Spain. Temperature records are being broken around the world – it is very concerning," he said.

Meanwhile, Ellis Kokko, 31, a Finnish student studying for a doctorate in Edinburgh, was carrying a homemade placard with the slogan “We can’t bear it”.

“This is a cute pun – I normally go for something more aggressive,” said the campaigner.

“There is this sense of frustration that nobody is doing anything and we are literally running out of time.”

Elsewhere in the crowd, dozens of Scottish national flags were waved in the wind while others called attention to climate justice and vulnerable farmers.

A few blocks away at the Cop26 meeting, negotiators continued to work to secure enough national promises to cut greenhouse gas emissions – mainly from fossil fuels – to keep the rise in the average global temperature to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

The first week of the two-week summit has included promises to phase out coal, slash emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane and reduce deforestation.

Meanwhile, a coalition of banks, insurers and asset managers pledged to provide $130 trillion of financial firepower to meet the Paris Agreement goals.

However, protesters say this does not go far enough. On Friday, a separate demonstration, organised by Fridays for Future Scotland, started with small groups of schoolchildren marching along the banks of the River Clyde.

More than 8,000 joined street protests and teenage Swedish activist Greta Thunberg addressed a rally in the city centre.

Activist Vanessa Nakate and other young campaigners, as well as local trade unionists, were scheduled to speak to crowds at the end of the march.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, actor Idris Elba acknowledged that he had few credentials to speak on climate change but said he was at Cop26 to amplify the climate threat to global food security.

Sitting on the same panel, climate justice campaigner Vanessa Nakate of Uganda implored the world to stop burning fossil fuels, the main cause of rising global temperatures.

"We are watching farms collapse and livelihoods lost due to floods, droughts and swarms of locusts," she said – all of which scientists say are being exacerbated by climate change.

"The climate crisis means hunger and death for many people in my country and across Africa."

Updated: November 7th 2021, 4:24 PM
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