COP26 Protests: Inflatable Cows, Megaphones and a Rainbow
(Bloomberg) -- Tens of thousands of protestors marched peacefully through the center of Glasgow on Saturday, urging politicians and business leaders attending the COP26 climate talks to do more to stem global warming.
More than 100,000 people braved rain and wind to chastise the world’s biggest emitters for not doing enough to cut planet-warming pollution, according to the COP26 Coalition, a U.K.-based network of environmental groups and non-governmental organizations. They said that about 300 demonstrations took place around the world.
Spirits were high even as the downpour soaked placards. People carried loud speakers and banged on steel drums. As the demonstration turned down Sauchiehall Street, one of the city’s main shopping areas, residents stuck their heads out of apartments, waving and cheering along. An inflatable cow floated above the crowd to highlight the need to tackle emissions of superwarming methane gas.
A police inspector who was helping to oversee the crowd put the size closer to 80,000, and added that everyone had been good-natured and friendly.
Anger focused mainly on some of the most world leaders including former U.S. President Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who leads one of the only major developed nations that’s resisted calls to set more credible climate targets. “Bad politicians ruin the planet,” read one sign. Brazil’s leader Jair Bolsonaro was also a common target as the Amazon rainforest burns.
"I am indigenous to Brazil and I am here today to make people aware of what is happening to the land, but also the indigenous people,” said 54-year-old Alberto Terena. “The destruction of the forest, the pollution of the rivers and the countless crimes that are happening to people is why I am here.”
The protestors also emphasized the need for more climate justice, with chants such as “stop the greenwash, stop the white wash,” and “system change, not climate change.” Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who was among the demonstrators, earlier called COP26 a “global north greenwash festival.”
One attendee held a banner that said “environmentalism without class struggle is just gardening.” The slogans underscored how climate change is an unfair problem: Countries that contributed the least greenhouse gases to the atmosphere are often the ones most vulnerable to the impacts of global warming.
“We need the biggest emitters to be held responsible,” said Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, the Marshall Islands’ UN climate envoy. “We did nothing to contribute to this crisis, and we should not have to pay the consequences.”
The weather gave activists a boost in the afternoon. The skies began to clear as the march arrived at Nelson Mandela Place, and many paused to take pictures of a rainbow that appeared.
Inside the conference center, negotiators were struggling to make a breakthrough in fraught discussions over how to set up a global carbon market that could potentially channel more money to green projects in developing countries. "They want to see delivery,” COP26 President Alok Sharma said about the protestors. “This is the COP when we need to see delivery."
There has been some progress so far at COP26, even as China, the world’s top polluter, stayed on the sidelines. That includes deals on cutting methane and fossil-fuel funding. There was also a promise by 100 countries to stop deforestation. But a tough second week ensues and some countries have already walked back their commitments.
“Governments around the world should invest in renewables faster. I can’t believe it’s 2021 and we are still waiting for this to happen,” said Niall Walker, a 48-year-old graphic designer. I’m not optimistic about the results of the COP.”
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