‘We are watching you’: Marchers outside U.N. climate summit urge faster action

Climate activists hold up banners during a protest organized by the Cop26 Coalition in Glasgow, Scotland, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021 which is the host city of the COP26 U.N. Climate Summit. The protest was taking place as leaders and activists from around the world were gathering in Scotland's biggest city for the U.N. climate summit, to lay out their vision for addressing the common challenge of global warming

Climate activists hold up banners during a protest organized by the Cop26 Coalition in Glasgow, Scotland, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021 which is the host city of the COP26 U.N. Climate Summit. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

Cheering and marching to the beat of drums, tens of thousands of climate activists paraded Saturday through the streets of the Scottish city hosting the U.N. climate summit, demanding that governments step up actions to reduce the use of climate-warming fossil fuels that damage the planet.

The mood in Glasgow was upbeat despite frequent bursts of rain and the crowd was peaceful. Protesters condemned government leaders around the world for climate talks that activists say have so far failed to produce the fast action needed. Climate protests were also held in other cities across Europe, including London, Paris, Dublin, Copenhagen, Zurich, and Istanbul.

“We’re having these conversations, but there’s no policies to actually back them,” Daze Aghaji, a marcher from London at the Glasgow demonstration, shouting over the steady beat of the drums.

“And on top of that, the real people should be in the room,” Aghaji said, echoing complaints from climate advocates that the Glasgow summit has too sharply limited participation by the public. “How are we expecting to make decent policy when the people who are the stakeholders of this aren’t even present in the room?”

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Megan McClellan, 24, of Glasgow said she doubted that climate negotiators were listening: “This is a very easy thing for them to ignore. They’re nice and comfortable” inside the summit conference center.

But her friend Lucette Wood, 30, of Edinburgh disagreed.

“They might not actually do anything about it but they pretend that they do … and they will just put it off for 20-30 years,” Wood said.

Marchers held signs with messages including “Code Red for Humanity,” “Stop big polluters,” “COP26, we are watching you” or simply “I’m angry.”

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As marchers neared the climate summit, a rainbow arched through the sky.

“Overwhelmingly the protests make a difference,” said Elizabeth May, a Canadian member of parliament and 16-time COP participant who was near the protest stage. “Most of the people on the inside are here in their hearts and sometimes physically.”

Inside the huge U.N. conference venue, negotiators knuckled down for a seventh straight day of talks to finish draft agreements that can be passed to government ministers for political approval next week.

Among the issues being haggled over at the talks by almost 200 countries are a fresh commitment to the goal of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), getting countries to review their efforts more frequently to increase the pressure for deeper cuts, and providing more financial support for poor nations.

A Democratic and Republican delegation of U.S. senators were visiting the summit on Saturday. And British actor Idris Elba brought his star power to the U.N. talks, highlighting the importance of helping small farmers cope with global warming.

Elba, known for roles such as the HBO series “The Wire” and BBC One’s “Luther,” said he wanted to highlight the disruption to global food chains as small farmers in particular are hit by erratic seasonal rains, drought, and other impacts of climate change.

“This conversation around food is something that needs to be really amplified, and one thing I’ve got is a big mouth,” said Elba, adding that 80% of the food consumed worldwide is produced by small-scale farmers.

Saturday’s march drew a range of participants and ages, a day after tens of thousands of young people in the Fridays for Future movement protested outside the conference’s steel fences. Speaking Friday, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, 18, branded the U.N. climate talks in Glasgow “a failure” so far, accusing leaders of purposefully creating loopholes in the rules and giving misleading pictures of their countries’ actual emissions.

Thunberg’s mix of school strikes, blunt and impatient talk about government excuses, and mass demonstrations have galvanized climate protests since 2018, especially in Europe.

The climate protest movement, and worsening droughts, storms, floods, wildfires, and other disasters this year, have brought home to many the accelerating damage of global warming and have kept the pressure on governments for stronger and faster action to reduce fossil fuel emissions.

In London, hundreds gathered at the Bank of England for a two-mile (3.2 kilometer) march to Trafalgar Square. In Istanbul, climate protesters brought their children to a demonstration Saturday, emphasizing the impact of global warming on future generations.

“I want my children to live on a beautiful planet in the future,” said Kadriye Basut, 52, in Istanbul.

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