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COP26 protests go global as first week of climate summit draws to a close

Climate strikers on the streets of Glasgow, Scotland.

Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images

More than half a million people across the UK took part in climate marches Saturday to protest the inaction of leaders and negotiators attending the United Nations’ COP26 climate conference this week. The protesters were part of a Global Day Action that saw more than 300 different demonstrations take place around the world, with organizers estimating the total number of participants to stretch into millions.

Protestors were demanding action from world leaders and governments, who they feel aren’t meeting commitments. These include keeping increases in global temperature below 1.5 degrees Celsius and providing developing countries, which didn’t cause the climate crisis but are suffering the worst as a result of it, the funding they need to adapt and survive.

As climate change takes hold, with rising sea levels and more extreme weather events causing droughts, floods and forest fires, protestors who together are part of the climate justice movement, want urgent change. Earlier this week, US President Joe Biden and other world leaders attended COP26, but in spite of several agreements and announcements coming out of the summit, Greta Thunberg and other activists have denounced the summit as a failure and a “PR event.”

In Glasgow, Scotland, where the UN climate summit is taking place, organizers estimated that about 100,000 people took part in protests on the city’s streets. People faced winds and rain to walk more than 2.5 miles from Kelvingrove Park to Glasgow Green, where a rally gave a platform to leaders of Indigenous communities and other civil society groups, including Black Lives Matter and trade unions.

Ugandan activist Vanessa Nakate spoke at the rally, describing how, in her home country, a school where she’d organized to have solar panels installed had been destroyed by storms. But she maintained the same message of hope from her speech the previous day, following the Fridays for Future rally.

“Even deniers will start to see what we see, their eyes will be opened and enlightened by our persistence and truth, and they won’t deny anymore,” Nakate said. “They’ll join us in this fight.”

Asad Rehman, one of the organizers of Saturday’s Global Day of Action, spoke as well, declaring the beginning of a new climate justice movement and an end to the era of injustice. “The story of Glasgow is not the story of the climate negotiations or the story of the conference of the polluters,” he said. “It’s the story of us, the conference of people.”

“There’s nobody coming to save us,” Rehman said. “We are the ones that are needed.”

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