COP26 braces for youth protests after vague emissions pledges

AFP , Friday 5 Nov 2021

Thousands of youth activists were preparing to descend on Glasgow on Friday to protest against what they say is a dangerous lack of action by leaders at the COP26 climate summit.

Climate Change in Malaysia
Deforestation surrounds massive limestone quarries cut into the mountains of Ipoh, Perak state Malaysia, Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. AP

Demonstrations are expected across the Scottish city to highlight the disconnect between the glacial pace of emissions reductions and the climate emergency already swamping countries across the world.

Organisers of the Fridays for Future global strike movement said they expected large crowds at the planned three-hour protest during COP26 "Youth Day", which will be attended by high-profile campaigners Greta Thunberg and Vanessa Nakate.

"This UN Climate Summit, we're once again seeing world leaders saying big words and big promises," said Mitzi Joelle Tan, a climate justice activist from the Philippines.

"We need drastic carbon dioxide emission cuts, reparations from the Global North to the Global South to use for adaptation and to manage loss and damages, and we need to put an end to the fossil fuel industry."

Delegates from nearly 200 countries are in Glasgow to hammer out how to meet the Paris Agreement goals of limiting temperature rises to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius.

The UN-led process requires countries to commit to ever-increasing emissions cuts, and enjoins richer, historical emitters to help developing countries fund their energy transformations and deal with climate impacts.

Countries issued two additional pledges on Thursday to reduce their fossil fuel consumption.

Twenty nations including major financiers the United States and Canada promised to end overseas fossil fuel funding by the end of 2022.

And over 40 countries pledged to phase out coal -- the most polluting fossil fuel -- although details were vague and a timeline for doing so not disclosed.

Thunberg was unimpressed, tweeting: "This is no longer a climate conference. This is a Global North greenwash festival."

'Take responsibility'

Experts say a commitment made during the high-level leaders summit at the start of COP26 by more than 100 nations to cut methane emissions by at least 30 percent this decade will have a real short-term impact on global heating.

But environmental groups pointed out that governments, particularly wealthy polluters, have a habit of failing to live up to their climate promises.

"On Monday, I stood in front of world leaders in Glasgow and asked them to open their hearts to the people on the frontlines of the climate crisis," said Kenyan activist Elizabeth Wathuti, who addressed the conference's opening plenary.

"I asked them to take their historic responsibility seriously and to take serious action here. So far they haven't."

Countries came into COP26 with national climate plans that, when brought together, puts Earth on course to warm 2.7C this century, according to the UN.

With just 1.1C of warming so far, communities across the world are already facing ever more intense fire and drought, displacement and economic ruin wrought by our heating climate.

"We are tired of fighting against the current 'normal -- the 'normal' we have is unviable, unsustainable and not enough," said Kenyan activist Kevin Mtai.

"We need to change."

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