Fridays for Future on the march in Glasgow as Cop26 leaders accept charter demands

More than 8,000 join protests addressed by teenage Swedish activist Greta Thunberg

Cop26 leaders have promised young people they would do all they can to tackle climate change as thousands marched across Glasgow to call on governments to step up action against global warming.

The activists demonstration, organised by Fridays for Future Scotland, started with small groups of schoolchildren marching along the banks of the River Clyde, with police lining the streets and helicopters hovering overhead.

Cop26 president Alok Sharma, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Nigel Topping, the high-level champion for climate action at Cop26, pledged to listen to the demands of the young and push through climate action “no matter how difficult” the task ahead.

The leaders were speaking at a session hosted by Youngo (Youth NGOs), the Official Children’s and Youth constituency of the UNFCCC, which presented its global statement and called for action from global leaders on climate change.

“You need us, but we need you so help me make that argument to delegates, to ministers this week, next week and let me commit to you that I will do absolutely everything I can to get this over the line,” Mr Sharma told delegates on youth and public empowerment day at the UN summit in Glasgow.

Young people on Friday took over the event at the end of a week of government and private sector pledges on deforestation, finance and energy. As well as a student march and youth-led presentations, an iceberg shipped from Greenland to Glasgow's River Clyde symbolised the plight of the Arctic.

In its climate statement, Youth NGOs, made up of a number of international youth organisations, urged governments to commit to providing $100 billion every year to developing countries to mitigate the effects of climate change.]

They called for an end to subsidies for fossil fuels, and for a paragraph on youth to be inserted in any agreement reached as a result of the Glasgow summit.

The biggest protests of the event so far were expected on Friday, with more than 8,000 joining street protests and teenage Swedish activist Greta Thunberg addressing a rally in the city centre.

The 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.

The activists, most of them young, carried banners at Friday's rally with slogans such as “I have to clear up my mess, why don’t you clear up yours?” and “Stop climate crimes”.

Inside the Cop26 'Blue Zone', the spotlight was firmly on young people and education as the event aimed to recognise how campaigners, such as Ms Thunberg, have raised public understanding of climate change and how their future will be affected by decisions being made now.

Addressing the Youth NGOs, Mr Sharma said that, as a father, he understood why the fight to combat climate change matters, as well as the “tension, energy and anger” that young people feel.

“I’ve got kids and we are trying to make a better world for each of us,” he said.

“Countries and leaders have made commitments and they have to stick to them and we have to work together to make them stick to them.”

The protest was part of a series of demonstrations being staged around the world on Friday and Saturday to coincide with the UN climate change conference in Scotland, which runs from October 31 to November 12.

Some at the Glasgow demonstration accused negotiators at Cop26 of “greenwashing” failures to curb greenhouse gas emissions and promoting policies that will not do enough to prevent dangerously rising temperatures in the coming decades.

Meanwhile, Ms Sturgeon told delegates that while she does not sit directly around the negotiating table at Cop26, she would “do everything” she could "to amplify” the voice of young people.

While she was pleased that young people still “trust people like us”, Ms Sturgeon said her generation “had not done enough to earn that trust”, something she hopes will change over the course of Cop26.

“This is make or break, time is running out and your lives and futures at stake here, so we must step up and do it for you because failure is not an option,” she said.

Ms Sturgeon pledged to lead by example, by accelerating Scotland’s transition away from fossil fuels and prioritise investment in green, clean energy.

“There is no excuse. We have an abundance of renewable energy [in Scotland]. We must make sure we fully use that,” she said. The future is about putting the voice of youth at centre stage, she told the delegates.

Mr Topping said he hears what young people want. “I, too, am angry but you have done a great job of turning your anger into agency,” he said.

While the Cop26 talks in Glasgow aim 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, protesters say this does not go far enough.

Mr Sharma told delegates that “leaders talk about trillions and billions” and about energy transition around the world and preserving forests, but ultimately they wanted the same things as the young, “to have a positive impact on individual lives across the globe”.

“We are on the same page and trying to do the same thing,” he said.

Updated: November 5th 2021, 2:04 PM
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