'Prove us wrong': Sceptical youth plead for Cop26 goals to be met

Activist Vanessa Nakate says she does not believe promises made in Glasgow

Climate activist Vanessa Nakate attends a meeting at the Cop26 UN Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland. Photo: AP
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The rich world heard an emotional plea from young climate activists to “prove us wrong” by turning pledges at Cop26 into real action to save the planet.

With two weeks of talks nearing their end, attention is turning to whether the promises made in Glasgow will really lead to forests being saved, money flowing into climate action and coal power being consigned to history.

While negotiators have expressed hope that the pledges could limit global warming to below 2°C, the head of the UN spoke of a “deep and real credibility gap” and announced a plan to monitor progress.

Vanessa Nakate, a campaigner from Uganda, went further by telling delegates she did not believe some of the promises made at Cop26.

She said a pledge to unleash $130 trillion of financial firepower on the climate crisis was undermined by the rich world’s failure to meet a decade-old promise of $100 billion in annual funding for developing countries.

“We don’t believe you. We don’t believe that banks will suddenly put trillions of dollars on the table for climate action when rich countries have struggled to find $100bn,” Ms Nakate said.

“We don’t believe that promises made by financial companies to end deforestation will actually prevent trees from being cut down.

“I am here to beg you to prove us wrong.”

Ms Nakate was applauded by delegates after telling the summit that pledges alone would not stop global warming.

“Only immediate and drastic action will pull us back from the abyss,” she said.

“I hope you can understand why many of the activists who are here in Glasgow, and millions of activists who could not be here, do not see the success that is being applauded.”

Talks in Glasgow will continue into Friday as negotiators agree a final text, with host country Britain welcoming a series of pledges but critics such as Ms Nakate casting doubt on progress in Glasgow.

Even the most optimistic estimates do not suggest that the Paris Agreement’s goal of capping global warming at 1.5°C would be met under current plans.

The talks were given a lift by a rare agreement between the US and China to increase co-operation on tackling


But many young campaigners are unhappy about how little they have been at the table during the 12-day summit.

“Those who are happy with the current pace of progress clearly won’t see their lives threatened by the climate breakdown. But we will,” said Saher Rashid Baig, 24, an activist from Pakistan.

“How many more Cops will we have where the decisions do not include our young people, children and future generations?”.

Kelo Uchendu, an activist from Nigeria, spoke about the injustice of young people inheriting a planet damaged by the greenhouse gas emissions of previous generations.

“Climate change threatens their access to health, good-quality air, food and quality education. This is the height of injustice,” he said.

Mary Robinson, a former president of Ireland and UN commissioner for human rights, said young people should be more prominent in official delegations.

“I do think, at this stage, that every delegation should include at least one, hopefully even more than one, young person with the delegate badge,” she said.

“Then they get into the room. I do think we need more young people, because we’ve heard you, you have the ideas, you have the passion, you have the understanding.”

The penultimate day of talks was dedicated to the role of cities and regions, which will play a key role in implementing the Glasgow pledges.

The UK pledged £27.5 million ($36.8m) of funding for the an Urban Climate Action Programme to support cities targeting net zero emissions.

“In cities, we’re doers,” said London Mayor Sadiq Khan. He touted policies to tackle air pollution in the UK capital.

Summit president Alok Sharma welcomed the involvement of private companies in setting ambitious targets at Cop26.

But the UN is responding to scepticism of these pledges by appointing experts who will set criteria for keeping track of progress.

“We have a critical mass of global commitments to net zero, from both governments and non-state actors,” said UN chief Antonio Guterres.

"We must now zoom in on the quality and implementation of plans — on measuring and analysing, on reporting, transparency and accountability.”

Updated: November 14, 2021, 4:37 AM