Thousands of protestors marched through Glasgow today to demand action from world leaders and polluting companies, as the COP26 UN climate summit moves into its second week.
Indigenous groups were front and center of the demonstration, with one protestor calling them the “first true climate leaders”.
Organizers say over 100,000 people joined the protests, with 300 other demonstrations taking place around the world.
Marchers progressed from Kelvingrove Park in the west of the city through to Glasgow Green in the east, where they heard speakers from across the climate movement.
Among them was Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, Marshall Islands Climate Envoy to the United Nations and a member of the Pacific Climate Warriors group, who said:
“The physical existence of our islands is what’s at stake. That’s why I flew all the way here, for over 18 hours, in order to make sure our message gets here.”
“My message is this: we as a people are not going anywhere. We survived three eras of colonialism. We survived over 60 nuclear weapons detonated in our islands through the U.S. nuclear weapons testing program. We will survive climate change. We refuse to leave. We refuse to go anywhere, and our sovereignty is not up for debate,” she said.
Asad Rehman, a spokesperson for the COP26 Coalition, which coordinated the protests, said:
“Many thousands of people took to the streets today on every continent demanding that governments move from climate inaction to climate justice. We won’t tolerate warm words and long-term targets anymore, we want action now.
“Today the people who have been locked out of this climate summit had their voices heard—and those voices will be ringing in the ears of world leaders as we enter the second week of negotiations.”
Antonio, an indigenous activist from Brazil at the march, told DeSmog: “It’s really important that indigenous voices are put in the forefront, because the organized Indigenous people from around the world are presenting solutions to climate change and the modern world isn’t responding. They aren’t listening.”
When asked how inclusive COP26 had been for Indigenous people, Antonio said:
“In [the Madrid climate summit, two years ago] we had a large space where we could gather. This year it’s the size of a closet. So we don’t feel the respect, the honor and intention of us being here. So I believe people are listening, the public is listening, but the leaders aren’t necessarily.”
“Indigenous people are the first true climate leaders. So it feels really good to know that we were given an opportunity to be in the front of the march,” he added.
The march had a carnival-like atmosphere, with many of the protesters choosing to express their demands for climate action through creative costumes and chants.
One group calling themselves the “Greenwash Busters” joined the march to call out the tendency of polluting companies to exaggerate their environmental credentials.
In a nod to the 1980s American film, they chanted “Who you gonna call? Greenwash busters!” on the sidelines of the march.
James, a member of the group from Bristol, said they had formed as an “affinity group” within environmental movement Extinction Rebellion six months ago.
“We hadn’t realized what a problem it was here. COP26 is a cesspit of greenwashing and we’re doing our best to highlight this.”
He said stronger laws were needed to prevent companies from misleading the public.
Other groups chanted: “ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, take your filth and go to hell” and “We all need our climate fixed. Tax, tax, tax the rich.”
‘Big guys’ that need to change
Hannah, who lives in Glasgow and attended the protest with her friends, said:
“We feel passionately about climate change.
Asked about COP26, Hannah, who is originally from Manchester, said:
“I think it should have been online personally, because the idea of world leaders flying half way across the world, and all those emissions, to speak about climate change, I just feel like it’s a bit counter productive.
“Generally you just hope that there’s going to be some result from it. In the end of the day it is down to governments and big companies to make change.
“And yet they’re asking people, your common folk, to stop using straws. That’s not the issue, it’s the big guys that need to make change, rather than putting it on normal people.”
Her message for leaders: “Stick to your plan. Don’t just say you’re going to make a change and then not stand behind what you say.”