1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

COP26 protest calls for climate action not words

Alistair Walsh
November 5, 2021

Young protesters are marching in Glasgow to call for immediate, just, and concrete action from world leaders.

Demonstrators during the Fridays for Future Scotland march through Glasgow during the Cop26 summit in Glasgow
About 10,000 people took part in the march towards the city centerImage: Andrew Milligan/empics/picture alliance

About 10,000 people joined a Fridays for Future protest in Glasgow on Friday, in a stand against inaction on climate change at COP26.

The protesters were joined by teen activist Greta Thunberg, who called for public pressure as leaders negotiate the global climate change response.

Shortly before the protest, DW spoke to youth climate activist Lauren McDonald, involved in the Stop Cambo (offshore oil field project) movement, who denounced greenwashing at the meetings.

"We need to phase out fossil fuels as quickly as possible. I'm not naive in the fact that this is not going to happen overnight," she said. But "change is not happening soon enough. That's the fault of governments in power, and CEOs of polluting industries. These people are deliberately slowing down change." 

DW journalist, Ajit Niranjan, on the ground in Glasgow, said there was a sense of anger among protesters, but also hope.

"Some of the people that we've spoken to have made the point that they often feel as though they're just there (at the negotiations) as token guests to represent the youth, but they don't have a say," he said.

"Others have stressed that they believe in the power of youth to actually make the changes, and that by turning out in such large numbers they will actually be able to convince the public to force politicians to honour their own pledges."

Children to grandparents

The crowds consisted of a wide range of people from young children, to their parents and grandparents, who were walking towards the center of the city where they would hear speeches from some of the most prominent climate activists in the world.

"I think it’s all talk," said Riona Reib, an 18-year-old arts student who had started going to Fridays for Future protests in school. "All the previous COPs have been failures, clearly."

"Climate change is really important to us and world leaders aren’t doing enough to prevent it," said Anna, 10, who was at the protest with her brother and mother. "It feels like we can do more when we’re all together," she said. "I feel I can make a big difference to the world," added her brother Oran. "Not just by protesting but by acting now."

Earlier, Dominika Lasota, a Polish climate activist with the Fridays for Future movement, told DW that global leaders had failed to take concrete action so far.

"We have seen world leaders just being stuck in this fairytale about the climate crisis, where they think that they can offer us those nice words, those nice speeches without any concrete actions, which shows very well that we are kind of seeing those people in power absolutely detached from...reality," she said.

Leaders' pledges "are nothing different to what we have seen before. I see it when it comes to the deforestation agreement, something similar has been agreed in 2014 and it has not been fulfilled so far."

Petition on climate emergency

Thunberg, along with fellow young activists Vanessa Nakate, Dominika Lasota, and Mitzi Tan, launched a petition with US non-profit Avaaz calling for world leaders to "face up to the climate emergency."

It calls on world leaders to maintain the goal of a 1.5 degree Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) limit, halt fossil fuel investments, subsidies, and new projects, and to end "creative carbon accounting." It also demanded countries deliver the $100 billion (€86 billion) already promised as well as additional funds for climate disasters, and to enact climate policies that protect workers and the most vulnerable.

At the time of writing more than 1.5 million people had signed the petition.

Glasgow City Council said it expected at least 8,000 people to join Friday's protest, adding that it was reckoning with widespread road closures. Police said they were duty bound to uphold the right to protest, and said they would protect human rights, while balancing the rights of the wider public.

The lives of activists: "Dear Future Children"

Further protests expected

On Saturday, more than 100,000 people are expected to take part in a separate climate protest, called the 'Global Day of Action for Climate Justice.'

Ahead of that demonstration, young activist Nakate, from Uganda, wrote an op-ed for the Financial Times newspaper, in which she slammed distant promises that were not backed by immediate action. "We will not celebrate empty words and corporate greenwash," she wrote.

In the days leading up to Friday's protest, activists have been gathering around Glasgow. Fridays for Future have rallied in a park in one of the city's poorer areas and opposite the COP26 venue, while Extinction Rebellion have led street marches, rallied outside investment banks and protested as world leaders dine.

Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior ship also sailed up the River Clyde to moor near the summit venue.

And there have been climate protests worldwide, including in Uganda, Bangladesh, India, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and Germany.

Earlier in the week, Fridays for Future joined the fight of local waste management groups in Glasgow, supporting them in their demands for investment against Glasgow's waste crisis, for a cleaner and greener city and against cuts. Representatives from the GMB union were expected to also take part in the climate protest.

Ajit Niranjan, Heather Moore, and Irene Banos Ruiz contributed to this report from Glasgow.