Climate activists unconvinced by progress at COP26

The Fridays for Future march during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26). Photo credit: REUTERS / Dylan Martinez.

By Anders Lorenzen

The world’s most famous climate activist, teenager Greta Thunberg, has called COP26 a greenwashing festival, and on Saturday over 100,000 people of all ages marched for climate action in Glasgow, many showing frustrations by a lack of what they saw as real progress. 

Activists from around the world had travelled to Glasgow and as a result, the Glasgow march was one of the most diverse. But activists say this was not repeated inside COP26 and argued that the negotiation and plenary halls lacked this diversity, being dominated by middle-aged white men. One who had travelled to Glasgow from Germany to attend the march was Philipp Chmel “The climate crisis is about the survival of humanity as we know it.  It’s up to the youth and the workers, the working class, to bring about the change that is necessary,” he said.

Blah blah blah

The march finished up on Glasgow Green, where several climate activists from around the world gave speeches warming up to the hottest name in town; Greta Thunberg. However, people showing up to see her speak were bitterly disappointed on this rainy wet autumn day in Glasgow as she had cancelled her appearance to make way for other voices, as she had previously addressed crowds during a rally on Friday. Ahead of COP26 Thunberg had criticised world leaders for being all talk and no action, saying that all we had been hearing from them is blah blah blah.

That new slogan has become a favourite with climate activists with several marchers echoing the same message and even placards being carried stating the message.

In previous UN climate summits Thunberg and other activists had been invited as speakers, but not this time. Perhaps this has strengthened her message that COP26 was corporate greenwash. In addition, there have also been concerns expressed that NGO’s and civil society were being sidelined during the talks, while the fossil fuel industry was given crucial access.

Two tales

Inside and outside COP26 is a story of two tales. Inside the world leaders are hailing what they call momentous breakthroughs in ambition and progress on halting deforestation and eliminating coal. Outside, activists and some NGO’s label these policies as empty promises and deals with no teeth.

Being a global day of action, Saturday saw events taking place around the world with 300 protests worldwide and 100 in the UK.

The COP26 summit is now into its second week and can be expected to culminate on Friday.  However, during recent years such events have run well into overtime. We will know soon enough if the pessimism about real progress expressed by activists is a true reflection.

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