In a speech at a protest teen activist Greta Thunberg lashed out at world leaders attending COP26 for their hypocrisy and lack of action on climate change.
Greta Thunberg tonight slammed COP26 as ‘shameful’ and added: ‘The world is literally burning.’ And she accused governments and leaders such as Boris Johnson and Joe Biden of being complicit in the world’s ecological problems.
She told those who gathered: ‘It is not a secret that Cop26 is a failure. It should be obvious that we cannot solve a crisis with the same methods that got us into it in the first place. And more and more people are starting to realise this. Many are starting to ask themselves what will it take for the people in power to wake up. But let’s be clear, they are already awake. They know exactly what they are doing. They know exactly what priceless values they are sacrificing to maintain business as usual. The leaders are not doing nothing. They are actively creating loopholes and shaping frameworks to benefit themselves. And to continue profiting from this destructive system. This is an active choice by the leaders to continue to let the exploitation of people and nature and the destruction of present and future living conditions to take place.’
It comes after thousands of schoolchildren and their parents marched through Glasgow in an extraordinary ‘Fridays For Future’ rally led by Thunberg as they urged world leaders at COP26 to ‘act now’.
Prince Charles lent his support to up to 10,000 protestors marching through the city as parents took their children out of school to join the event which was being addressed by the Swedish activist. But Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has criticised young activists for travelling to the demonstration – saying they should not be there in ‘school time’ and they faced handing their parents fines for truancy.
Thunberg claimed that the 30,000 delegates attending Cop26 were being fed a ‘greenwashing’ PR event that was aimed at maintaining a status quo on behalf of the event’s sponsors, which include major energy companies. Thunberg said: ‘The Cop has turned into a PR event where leaders are giving beautiful speeches and announcing fancy commitments and targets while behind the curtains the governments of the Global North countries are still refusing to take any drastic climate action. It seems like their main goal is to continue to fight for the status quo. And Cop 26 has been named the most exclusionary Cop ever. This is no longer a climate conference. This is now a Global North greenwash festival. A two-week long celebration of business as usual and blah, blah, blah. The most affected peoples in the most affected areas still remain unheard and the voices of future generations are drowning in their greenwasher and empty words and promises. But the facts do not lie and we know that our emperors are naked.’
‘To stay below the targets set in the Paris agreements and thereby minimising the risks of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control we need immediate, drastic, annual emission cuts unlike anything the world has ever seen. And as we don’t have the technological solutions that alone will do anything close to that, that means we will have to fundamentally change our society. And this is the uncomfortable result of our leaders’ repeated failure to address this crisis. At the current emissions rates our remaining CO2 budgets to give us the best chances of staying below 1.5 degrees will be gone before the end of this decade.’
In England, a local authority can issue parents with a fine for a child’s non-attendance which is £60 but rises to £120 after 21 days but within 28 days. There is no right of appeal and the authority can prosecute the parent if it is unpaid. Repeated offences can see the fines rise to £2,500, as well as possible jail terms of up to three months. The situation is different in Scotland, where there are no automatic fines for parents who take children out of school without permission during term-time – although the education authority can hold a meeting with their parents regarding truancy and then choose to prosecute them through a sheriff court if it wishes. Parents in some council areas have previously been threatened with prison or fines of up to £1,000 in criminal proceedings.
Thunberg claimed the real issues were not being talked about in the Cop26 blue zone where international leaders and official agents of change have gathered for the last week. ‘The current ecological crisis doesn’t exist in a vacuum,’ Thunberg, who also took part in the march, said. ‘It is directly tied to other crisis and injustices that they back to colonialism and beyond, crisis based on the idea that some people are worth more than others and somehow have the right to exploit others and steal their land and resources. And it is very naive of us to think we can solve this crisis without addressing the root cause of it. But this is not going to be spoken about inside the Cop. It’s just too uncomfortable. It’s much easier for them to simply ignore the historical debt that the countries of the Global North have towards the most affected people and areas. And the questions we must ask ourselves is, what is it that we are fighting for. Are we fighting to save ourselves and the living planet or are we fighting to maintain business as usual.’
‘Our leaders say that we can have both but the harsh truth is that that is not possible in practice. The people in power can continue to live in their bubble filled with their fantasies, like eternal growth on a finite planet and technological solutions that will suddenly appear seemingly out of nowhere and will erase all of these crises just like that. All this while the world is literally burning, on fire, and while the people on the frontlines are still bearing the brunt of the climate crisis. They can continue to ignore the consequences of their inaction but history will judge them poorly and we will not accept it.’
‘We don’t need any more distant, non-binding pledges. We don’t need any more empty promises. We don’t need any more commitments that are full of loopholes and incomplete statistics and that ignore the historical emissions and climate justice. Yet that is all that we are getting. I know that it is not radical to say. Just look at their track record. They have had 26 Cops. They have had decades of blah, blah, blah, and where has that led us.’
Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband was spotted taking part in the march today, and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon praised ‘young people who care enough about the future of the planet to come out to make their voices heard’, adding that it was a ‘sizeable demonstration’ and young people were ‘powering this agenda.’
Having described the actions of those behind Cop26 as shameful, she added:’ Some people say that we are too radical but the truth is that they are the ones who are radical. Fighting to save our life supporting systems isn’t radical at all. Believing that our civilisation as we know it can survive a 2.7 degree or 3 degree hotter world on the other hand isn’t only extremely radical, it’s pure madness. They cannot ignore the scientific consensus and they cannot ignore our screams as we reclaim their power. We are tired of their blah, blah, blah. Our leaders are not leading, this is what leadership looks like.’
Thunberg had followed a speech by Ugandan activist Vanessa Nakate who told protestors her country is witnessing the impacts of the climate crisis first hand. ‘People are dying,’ Nakate said. ‘Children are dropping out of school, people’s farms are being destroyed.’
Millions of people around the world are taking part in a Global Day of Action for Climate Justice. A spokesman for the Prime Minister said: ‘We do understand why young people feel so strongly about climate change, and we want to see them use that passion and turn it into action. ‘That’s exactly why we’re empowering them through our new virtual national education park, climate leaders awards, and giving teachers the tools to put climate change at the heart of the curriculum, and we’re backing this up with our continued pledge to cut the carbon footprint of school buildings as well.’
During her speech, Ms Thunberg branded the event a ‘failure’ that would not manage to ‘fundamentally change society’ to tackle global warming. She told the cheering crowds: ‘COP has turned into a PR event where leaders are giving beautiful speeches and announcing fancy commitments and targets while behind the doors still refusing to take any drastic climate action. This is a global greenwash festival and a two week celebration of business as usual and blah blah blah. The words do not lie and we know that our emperors are naked.’
Ms Thunberg suggested climate change and environmental destruction was ‘directly linked’ to issues ‘dating back to colonialism and beyond’. She continued: ‘These crises are based on the idea that some people are worth more than others and therefore have the right to exploit others and steal their land and resources. The countries of the global north are forgetting the historic debt they owe to the south. Our leaders cannot ignore us – the people – including their children. We are tired of their blah blah blah. We are tired of them not leading, this is what leadership looks like.’
Charles, who has long campaigned on green issues and been attending COP26 throughout this week, said he had been invited to join the demonstration, but it was ‘difficult’ for him to personally march with the protest. The Prince expressed sympathy last night with the anger and frustration of the young activists in a speech addressing COP26 negotiators, telling delegates that the ‘weight of history’ was on their shoulders. He added: ‘There’s a big march tomorrow, which some people have said I should join – that’s more difficult – but the point is, please don’t forget these people out there. Don’t forget that it’s their future.’
Speaking yesterday at the Chief Negotiators Reception at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Charles said: ‘I’ve met people from all over the world in the last week and elsewhere when I go around the Commonwealth. So many people are in a dire situation of such vulnerability with more and more people wanting to move as climate migrants, because they are now finding such scarce resources, such as drought. Unless we respond to their cries for help, we will end up in a very, very difficult situation indeed with conflict and ever scarcer resources. I remember speaking about this over 30 years ago in a lecture at Cambridge to the then Global Security unit, but nobody paid the slightest attention. I am begging you this time to pay attention to these people, because they matter.’
Pupils who took part in the demonstration staged a strike from school during the march from Kelvingrove Park in the west of the city to George Square demanding climate justice and seeking to hold leaders to account. Charlie O’Rourke, 14, from Glasgow, skipped school to attend the march with his mother, Cairsty O’Rourke, and sister, Edith. He said global leaders at Cop26 must ‘listen to the people’. He said: ‘Listen to what they want to say. Don’t just go for profit. Listen to what the planet needs.’ His mother said she was there for her children and for ‘the generations to come to just show that something has to happen and it has to happen very quickly’. Ms O’Rourke, who is from Glasgow and works for the NHS, said the Scottish Government has been ‘on the fence for too long’ on the issue of the Cambo oilfield. She added: ‘I’d like to hear Nicola Sturgeon saying a bit more against it. I’d like all of this funding to go into a way out of this, a way out of using fossil fuels.’
Finlay Pringle, 14, from Ullapool in the Scottish Highlands, travelled by train to Glasgow with his father to take part in the march. He said: ‘If you really, truly love something and you want to protect it, no matter what it is, it doesn’t have to be climate striking, but if there’s something that you love and you want to protect it, then you should do that, don’t think twice about it.’
On what is COP26’s ‘Youth and Public Empowerment Day’, one parent Laura, McDonald, 34, took her daughters Erin and Ellie out of Hermitage Primary School to take them to the protest. She said: ‘I have been studying climate issues and are well aware of the challenges we all face. They are aged 10 and eight and my older child is becoming more and more interested in climate change issued and I hope the youngest will follow more as she gets older. I took them out of school today and the school didn’t appear to mind. It’s good to see so many hundreds of other schoolchildren here as well. It’s a very important day.’
One girl dressed in school uniform at the protest in Glasgow told Sky News today: ‘Well I feel that our leaders have just failed us.’Greta Thunberg has told them repeatedly and repeatedly, something needs to happen. I think Boris just sort of blathers on about… not saying very much… He went on a private jet to a dinner in London with a climate sceptic and then came back. When he started talking about, you know oh, ‘it’s one minute to midnight, we need to make some kind of action’. He is just being a total hypocrite and we need to tell him that he’s wrong.’ She continued: ‘I feel young people have a lot of power and energy. I feel young people have a lot of new ideas and I feel like they have more hope.’
The girl, who was not named, was referring to reports that Prime Minister Boris Johnson flew out of COP26 on a private jet to attend a dinner with former Daily Telegraph editor Charles Moore, who wrote last month in the newspaper that the ‘climate emergency’ is ‘a speculation’. However, the girl’s claim that Mr Johnson then returned to COP26 following the dinner is untrue.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: ‘We pay tribute to young people who care enough about the future of the planet to come out to make their voices heard. I know I passed it on the way here, it looks like a sizeable demonstration, and it’s young people that are powering this agenda. I was reflecting to myself that it only feels like five minutes in my life from the day that I would have been on that march rather than being a leader that is charged with living up to the expectations of young people. Obviously I’d say to everybody protesting whether it’s today or tomorrow, when there’ll be another sizeable demonstration – be peaceful, make your voices heard, respect the citizens of the city. But protest – peaceful, democratic protest – is a powerful, powerful part of any process of change and it’s particularly important at this time.’
Brazilian activist Adri Maffioletti accused her country’s president of being a liar as she addressed climate protesters in Glasgow’s George Square. She said: ‘Our president, Jair Bolsonaro, is not here. Because he doesn’t have the capacity to him. All of his lies. Because he’s lying all the time – he’s lying about Brazilian people, he’s lying about … preservation of our forest. Liar, liar, our forests are on fire.’ She added: ‘We are in an emergency. Our country is collapsing.’
Mikaela Loach, of the Stop Cambo campaign, told the climate rally in Glasgow that the UK Government is propping up ‘violent fossil fuel companies’ with public subsidies. She criticised the Government over the Cambo North Sea oil field and urged activists to be ‘audacious’ in their demands. She added: ‘I will be taking the UK Government to court over the North Sea oil and gas subsidies I mentioned before. ‘We will hold them accountable and with the support from all of you … we will end public payments for big polluters. We will win because the power is with the people, the power is with all of us.’
Striking council workers and protestors carrying Socialist Workers Party placards also staged protests. Chris Mitchell from the GMB union told climate activists in Glasgow’s George Square that they are the future. Rubbish has been piling up in the city during the Cop26 summit after refuse staff and street cleaners who are members of the GMB went on strike. Mr Mitchell told the rally: ‘Everybody here is fighting for the future – you are the future. Delegates and world leaders mean nothing to us – you will make a difference. From now to eternity. I am so proud of everybody here. It is the biggest march that I have ever seen. I am so proud of the striking workers of the GMB trade union that’s on the picket line today making a stance. The message is for everybody right through world: stand with us, not against us.’
Miss Thunberg was due to speak along with Ugandan activist Vanessa Nakate and other youth campaigners from around the world, as well as local trade unionists. Anna Brown, an activist with Fridays for Future in Glasgow, said the event demonstrated a need to move climate discussions away from ‘enclosed’ spaces. She said: ‘The message is that the system of COPs – we’ve had 26 now – that system isn’t working. So we need to uproot that system. The message is you need to listen to the people in the streets, the young people, the workers. We need to move it from being in an enclosed space where people can’t get involved to the streets, where people can see what’s happening and have a say. I think part of it is designed so people don’t understand what it’s about – if people don’t understand what’s being said in negotiations, they can’t criticise what’s happening and the decisions that are being made.’
Patience Nabukalu, a climate activist from Uganda working with Fridays for Future MAPA (Most Affected People and Areas), said Cop26 was ignoring the people that mattered. She said: ‘It’s like we didn’t attend. It’s like we are excluded, yet we are the most affected people.’ Ms Nabukalu claimed leaders at COP26 are ‘deciding for us’ instead, saying: ‘Many people in my country are suffering. Children are not going to school because of the crisis. ‘Climate change is real in my country. It’s one of the countries that are vulnerable to the climate crisis. People are flooded every day and we are having a lot of landslides in my country, we are experiencing a lot of impact of climate change.’ Asked if she feels the voice of the Global South is being listened to, she said: ‘Honestly, no. People in the Global south are the most affected people and areas. Yet we are not given ears to listen to our voices.’
Today’s protest is the first of two, with a second tomorrow set to attract more than 50,000 people.
It comes after Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi criticised young climate protesters for travelling to Glasgow to demonstrate outside Cop26 today – saying they should not be there in ‘school time’.
The senior Cabinet minister warned them it was their own time they were wasting and warned they faced handing their parents fines for truancy if they attend the march that will feature a speech by Miss Thunberg. Mr Zahawi said youth climate protesters should demonstrate at the weekend rather than during school hours. Asked on Times Radio whether he has been invited to join them, Mr Zahawi said: ‘No, I’m… I have to say, I wish they were doing it on a Saturday and a Sunday, not in school time. I’d hate to get into a situation where headteachers and teachers are having to fine families and students. We’ve got two weekends of COP here in Glasgow when they can have lawful demonstrations, and they should have those and have the right to do that, and I would happily engage with anyone who wants to come and tell me exactly what they think.’
A group of mothers from around the world, including Rosamund Adoo Kissi Debrah, whose daughter Ella died from an asthma attack as a result of severe air pollution, will be handing in a letter at COP26 calling for an end to new fossil fuel financing for the sake of their children’s health and future.
They will then join the youth strikers marching through Glasgow.
Today’s protest comes ahead of marches tomorrow where tens of thousands of people are expected in Glasgow, with other marches in London and cities around the UK, as well as across the world. The protests come at the end of the first week of the conference, where countries are under pressure to increase ambition on cutting the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change, to avoid the worst impacts of warming, and to ensure finance for poor countries to tackle the crisis.
Earlier in the week around 120 world leaders gathered at the COP26 summit to set out the action they were taking to tackle the climate crisis.
There have also been announcements on curbing deforestation, phasing out coal and boosting finance flows towards transforming economies to be green. But shadow business secretary Ed Miliband warned against ‘shifting the goalposts’ to focus on long-term targets and vague announcements in various sectors instead of on urgent action by countries to cut emissions to get the world on track to limit temperature rises to 1.5C.
Original source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk