Protest organizers hoped to draw large crowds to Glasgow’s streets on Saturday to demand urgent action against a climate crisis that is already flooding cities. deleting cities from the map, destroying forests and fueling storms, heat waves and droughts around the world.
Over the past week, world leaders and diplomats from hundreds of countries gathered at the United Nations climate conference, making ambitious statements and announcing progress, including historic agreements to end deforestation and reduce methane emissions. But commitments will, at best, slow the rate of global warming, not stop it.
For activists around the world, including many young people alarmed by the inheritance of a planet on the brink of disaster, the talks amount to what Greta Thunberg, the 18-year-old Swedish climate activist on Friday called a “two-week celebration of business as usual is ‘blah, blah, blah'”.
Capturing the global mood of impatience and frustration among her allies, Ms. Thunberg, who helped galvanize a generation to action, chastised world leaders for vain promises. Speaking to thousands of protesters at a youth-led rally in Glasgow on Friday, he called the UN talks a “failure”.
“The leaders aren’t doing anything,” he said. “They are actively creating loopholes, shaping structures to benefit themselves to continue profiting from this destructive system.”
His words were met with cheers.
Moments before she spoke, Vanessa Nakate, an activist from Uganda, lamented the inaction that followed previous international climate talks.
“How many more should they keep until they realize their inertia is destroying the planet?” she asked.
But Michael E. Mann, a prominent climate scientist, took to Twitter to defend the summit, however short it may fall of what is necessary. “Activists declaring him dead on arrival make fossil fuel executives jump for joy,” he wrote.
The conference highlighted the socio-economic disparities that shape global climate policy, pitting advanced industrialized countries such as the United States and European Union nations in some cases against emerging economies, including China, India and South Africa. On Friday, activists from South America, Central America, Africa and Asia berated their leaders for failing climate policies and criticized international leaders for ignoring the developing world.
Up to 100,000 people were expected on the streets of Glasgow on Saturday. Climate activists from around the world arrived in the city this week, calling for changes, stop the talks held by the gas giants and staging theatrical performances on the edge of the summit.
But the presence of environmental activists at the meeting itself was toned down, in part due to restrictions on the pandemic, and some were unable to attend the event at all.
Within the conference, countries are discussing how to deliver on the broken promises of past years, including a $ 100 billion pledge in annual aid from 2020 to 2025 by rich countries to help poorer ones adapt to a warming planet.
Countries most at risk from the effects of climate change in the developing world are also pushing major carbon-emitting nations to raise their annual targets to prevent global temperatures from rising beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to levels before the industrial revolution.