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At COP26 Youth Want Action, Accountability, Protesters Rally
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At COP26 Youth Want Action, Accountability, Protesters Rally


GLASGOW — Thousands of climate activists from across the world have descended this week on the Scottish city of Glasgow, demanding that nations gathering for a global climate conference produce real, meaningful change.

Young protestors claim that the world they inherit is on the verge of climate catastrophe.

They have been there for the week disrupting talks held by gas giants,performing theatrical spectacles on the fringes international events known as COP26. But the protests are not. Peak Friday and Saturday, in two days of demonstrations that are expected to draw up 100,000 people.

One of the centerpieces of the protest plans is a youth-led climate strike organized by Fridays for Future, the international movement that has grown out of Greta Thunberg’s solo school strike that began in 2018. On Friday afternoon, thousands of people will march through Glasgow demanding more action from the world leaders on the issue.

“There’s a real responsibility for young people that this will be ours to deal with,” said Eilidh Robb, 26, a Scottish climate activist. “And the mess that we didn’t create will be left to us to manage.”

Ms. Robb, originally from Edinburgh, is now based at Brussels and volunteers with the U.K. Youth Climate Coalition is a British non-profit that mobilizes young people for climate action. She traveled to Glasgow this week by train with hundreds of othersTo participate in the conference and the protests.

The world’s leaders are here managed to secure new agreements to end deforestation and reduce methane emissionsThe prospect of real progress is high as diplomats will be negotiating further greenhouse gas reductions in the coming days, raising hopes.

The conference is still focusing on how countries can fulfill the unfulfilled promises made in years past, including a $100 billion pledge for climate finance annually from 2020 to 2025. In 2009, wealthy nations promised to make a commitment to poorer countries. This commitment has not been fulfilled.

The countries most at risk of climate change in the developing world push major carbon-emitting countries to increase their annual targets to prevent global temperatures rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius (or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to levels before the Industrial Revolution.

The conference evoked mixed emotions for many of the young protesters: They expressed concern that their voices weren’t being heard, but also expressed hope that their presence at the event would inspire change.

“It’s a huge burden for young people to dedicate their lives to calling out politicians who are paid to represent us,” Ms. Robb said.

The young activists demand more than reducing emissions. They want an acknowledgement of the systemic issues associated with climate change response, including poverty and inequality. Ms. Robb stated that they want solutions that work for all and that help to end racism, sexism, and the neglect of developing countries.

“Every young person I speak to seems to really understand that fundamentally at the core, which gives me so much hope,” Ms. Robb said. “Because I think our politicians have lost sight of that.”

Because of pandemic restrictions as well as difficulties in obtaining visas, vaccines, and affordable accommodations, the presence of environmental activists at this conference has been reduced. Some are unable to attend.

The Britain-based COP Coalition, an umbrella group of climate activists and organizations, has labeled the conference the “least accessible climate summit ever,” pointing to chaotic crowding and some delegates being told to dial into the meeting from hotel rooms.

The format of the event — which was flipped from previous years to begin with speeches from international leaders, including President Biden — also left many activists barred from entering the conference center this week because of heightened security.

Monicah Kamandau, 27, a Kenyan climate activist who traveled to Glasgow, has long called for the world’s richest countries that are the most responsible for climate change to pay their share of addressing the problem, and for greater inclusivity of youth voices in debates and solutions.

She hopes to see the $100 billion climate finance pledge become a reality. It will include clear directions for mitigation, adaptation, and mechanisms that hold countries accountable for their commitments.

“I want to be very realistic and look at the fact that this is the 26th summit on climate discussions,” Ms. Kamandau said. “And my view is that over that time, there have been a lot of promises made, but they have not been implemented.”

In particular, women and activists from developing nations — who are among those most affected by extreme weather driven by climate change — are being left out of the most crucial conversations around climate change, many activists say.

ActionAid International, a charity group that surveys people in Brazil and South Africa who all face imminent climate change threats, found that nearly half of respondents believe that developing countries are being excluded form the climate negotiations. Three-quarters of those surveyed believe that the summit’s decisions will have the most impact on the lives of people from these countries.

Diaka Salena Koloma, a Sierra Leonean climate activist, was unable attend the event because her visa was delayed.

She began her campaign for climate justice in 2017 after a mudslide set off by torrential rain killed hundreds in Freetown, her country’s capital, and she said that girls and women on the frontline in the climate crisis like her require more visibility.

“We are born in a system where our voices — our existence — doesn’t even matter,” she said of young people from developing countries.

Ms. Koroma said via video chat that she wants climate funds to be distributed directly to the most affected by climate changes and for wealthy nations to make wider commitments to helping mitigate the problem. She hopes that the conference will oneday be held in Africa to bring more voices to the table.

“We can’t play politics with this kind of issue,” she said. “Climate change — it surpasses every other issue we have.”

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