GLASGOW — Defying biting wind and steady rain, thousands took to the streets of Glasgow on Saturday in noisy and colorful protests, calling on global leaders to take action drastic enough to match the scale of a climate crisis already wreaking havoc on parts of the globe.
Waving banners, beating drums and chanting, an array of demonstrators — including members of trade unions and faith organizations, as well as left-wing activists — took over large parts of the Scottish city, which is hosting the COP26 climate summit. A long, winding line ostensibly protestors was making its way through the city by midafternoon. It took more than an entire hour to get to a fixed point.
The protest showed how the fight against climate change had become an umbrella movement for a growing protest group that aims put pressure on global leaders for a wide range causes, including racial equality and income equality.
“We should not underestimate the significance of how the climate movement has broken through into the mainstream in the last two years because it’s really starting to change people’s consciousness,” said Feyzi Ismail, a lecturer in global policy and activism at Goldsmiths, University of London.
“I think it is more important than what’s going on inside the COP meeting because it’s applying the kind of pressure that’s needed to force governments to act, but also to take far more radical positions than they might have,” she added.
Many protesters felt a connection with their own lives.
“Flooding is happening, and it is going to keep happening,” said Alexandra Bryden, 63, an upholsterer and curtain maker from Auchterarder, north of Edinburgh, who said that her workshop had been flooded and that she worried about the future of her family members who live by the coast.
According to organizers, there were more than 200 events planned around the world, with over half of them in Britain.
Paris: Hundreds of protestors gathered in front City Hall to hold up portraits of world leaders that they claimed are not doing enough to reduce global warming. The leaders’ names, including President Biden and President Emmanuel Macron of France, were read out and then booed by the crowd. “One, two and three degrees, that’s a crime against humanity,” the protesters chantedBefore you begin, observe a minute silence in support of the victims of climate change around world.
Saturday’s focus was on Glasgow, where authorities closed several streets to accommodate protestors who were expected to arrive in their thousands.
“People are coming out in this weather to say we have had enough of this,” said Robert Dickie, 64, a retired accountant from Hamilton, Scotland, near Glasgow, wearing a kilt and speaking after playing the bagpipes.
“Things have got to change before we all become extinct — and that is what is going to happen in the long term,” he said.
Saturday’s march was the culmination of smaller protests that took place during the week around the city, including a youth-led demonstration on Friday organized by the group Fridays for Future, an international movement that grew out of Greta Thunberg’s solo school strike in 2018. She addressed the crowd on Friday and described COP26 as “a failure.”
New pledges were made to reduce deforestation, and to get rid of coal during the first week at the climate summit. At least 105 countries signed an agreementTo reduce methane emissions by 30% this decade, which is a potent greenhouse-gas. Major financial institutions stated that they would mobilize trillions in dollars to shift the world economy towards cleaner energy.
Experts say that the temperature rise must be controlled to 1.5 degrees Celsius or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit between preindustrial times to the end. This will prevent the worst effects from climate change. Even if all countries meet their current pledges, this goal is not possible.
Protesters in Glasgow, like many environmental groups, were skeptical about the promises made, doubting whether they would be fulfilled and arguing that they didn’t go far enough in solving an urgent global problem.
“There are going to be communities on the Scottish coast that will be cut off. It is real,” said Ms. Bryden, the upholsterer. “I can’t look my grandson in the eye. I am sorry about what he is going to have to put up with in the future.”
Bel Burn, a Cumbrian-based retired health worker who lives in northern England, stated that she was protesting because of her opposition to intensive agriculture. She also described how she had purchased 20 acres of land where she planned to plant 4,200 trees.
“We are blaming China and we are blaming Brazil, but we are not doing enough, and I don’t see a strategy,” she said, sheltering from the rain.
“They haven’t gone far enough,” she added. “They have agreed a lot of this stuff before, why would we believe it’s going to be different this time?”
Stuart Graham, a Glasgow trade union official and a member of the COP26 Coalition that organized the protests, said he hoped the march would bolster campaigns for free public transportation and for a huge program to insulate and improve the city’s housing stock. “It’s critical that we have a civil society with a powerful voice to hold these leaders to account,” he said.
According to organizers, the untold number of groups with differing agendas are united in a common commitment for what they call climate justice.
Katia Penha, one the activists, is also part of Quilombola, a group consisting of Black rural residents in Brazil. She stated that it was important to attend Glasgow this weekend in order to raise awareness about the concerns of those in developing countries who are often ignored by global leaders. Her community has been impacted by mining and she wants to acknowledge its challenges, along with Indigenous communities that are disproportionately impacted.
“We came here to tell the world: Without us — the Quilombola’s people in Brazil — it’s not possible to have debate about climate change,” she said, pointing out how a burst hydroelectric dam in 2015 in Mariana, Brazil, killedQuilombola people, and wiped out villages.
Elsewhere, vegan activists carried balloons of a cow and a chicken with the message, “Thank you for not eating us.” On a hillside, a group spelled out “Amazonia Forever” with strips of cloth above the image of a butterfly, calling attention to the destruction of the rainforest.
The violence that was witnessed in protests at the summit’s beginning years, especially in Seattle 1999, has been avoided.
Youth groups and other organizations that believe in nonviolent disruption like Extinction Rebellion have taken the lead.
Ms. Ismail stated the question for the movement was whether it could increase its influence by combining unions and persuading employees to use the threat to strike to push for a coherent agenda. She said that it had made progress already.
“The protest movement is the only thing that is going to change the situation,” Ms. Ismail said. “If there is no pressure, there will be no change.”
Aurelien BreedenContributed reporting from Paris