Thousands of young campaigners have marched through the streets of Glasgow, demanding urgent action from world leaders at the United Nations climate conference that Greta Thunberg branded “a failure”.
A week of government speeches and pledges at the two-week COP26 gathering has included promises to phase out coal, slash emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane and reduce deforestation.
But campaigners and pressure groups have been underwhelmed by the commitments made so far, many of which are voluntary, exclude the biggest emitters or set deadlines decades away.
Swedish teenage activist Thunberg accused leaders of the northern hemisphere of actively creating loopholes in the rules and greenwashing their countries’ emissions.
Speaking at a rally outside the conference venue, Thunberg called for tougher rules to clamp down on emitters instead of what she termed “distant, non-binding pledges”.
“World leaders are obviously scared of the truth, yet no matter how hard they try, they cannot escape it,” she said.
“They cannot ignore the scientific consensus and above all they cannot ignore us – the people, including their own children.”
She said: “This is no longer a climate conference. This is now a global north greenwash festival, a two-week long celebration of business as usual and blah blah blah.”
“The most affected people in the most affected areas still remain unheard and the voices of future generations are drowning in their greenwash and empty words and promises.
“But the facts do not lie. And we know that our emperors are naked.”
Thunberg added: “The question we must now ask ourselves is, what is it that we are fighting for? Are we fighting to save ourselves and the living planet? Or are we fighting to maintain business as usual?
“Our leaders say that we can have both but the harsh truth is that that is not possible in practice.”
Branding world leaders “shameful,” she continued: “They continue to expand fossil fuel infrastructure, open up new coal mines, coal power plants, grant new oil licences and are still refusing to do even the bare minimum, like delivering, delivering on the long-promised climate finance for loss and damage to the most vulnerable and least responsible countries.”
Some of the marchers and community leaders who addressed the crowd demanded deep-rooted change to the status quo.
“This is a message from indigenous women in the Amazon to keep oil in the ground, to stop mining. That is good for all of us, for indigenous people and for the world,” one speaker said.
Sixteen-year-old protester Hannah McInnes said climate change was the most universally devastating problem: “It’s our lives and our futures that are on the line.”
Inside the COP26 conference venue in the Scottish city, civil society leaders took over discussions.
“We must not declare victory here,” said former US vice president Al Gore, who shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work informing the world about climate change.
“We know that we have made progress but we are far from the goals that we need to reach.”
with reporting from PA and Reuters