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by Andrew Learmonth
05 November 2021
COP26 has turned into a 'global greenwash festival' Greta Thunberg tells school strikers

COP26 has turned into a 'global greenwash festival' Greta Thunberg tells school strikers

Greta Thunberg has dismissed the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow as “a global greenwash festival” and a “two-week-long celebration of business as usual and blah, blah, blah.”

The Swedish activist was speaking at the Fridays For Future school strike in the city’s George Square. It was timed to coincide with the UN conference's Youth and Public Empowerment Day.

Organisers said an estimated 25,000 young people and supporters had turned up for the rally, which brought Glasgow to a halt as protesters snaked their way from Kelvingrove park in the west end to the city centre. 

By the time the first marchers arrived in George Square, the tail of the protest was in Charing Cross, just over a mile away. 

Other smaller feeder marches came in from all over the city.

Addressing the crowd, Thunberg said COP26 was already a “failure”. 

“What will it take for the people in power to wake up? But let's be clear, they are already awake. They know exactly what they are doing,” she said.

“They know exactly what priceless values they are sacrificing to maintain business as usual.

“The leaders are not doing nothing. They are actively creating loopholes and shaping frameworks to benefit themselves and to continue poverty from this destructive system.”

The climate summit had, she added, turned into a PR event where “leaders are giving beautiful speeches and announcing fancy commitments and targets while behind the curtains the governments of the global north countries are still refusing to take any drastic climate action”.

She said the main goal of the summit was “to fight for the status quo”.

“This is now a global 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 greenwashing empty words and promises.

“But the facts don't lie. And we know that our emperors are naked.”

She said the only way to avoid the climate catastrophe was with “immediate, drastic, annual emission cuts unlike anything the world has ever seen” and not technological solutions that didn’t yet exist. 

“The people in power continue to live in their bubble, filled with their fantasies, like eternal growth on a finite planet, and technological solutions that will suddenly appear seemingly out of nowhere and will erase all of these crises just like that.

“All this while the world is literally burning, and while the people sitting on the front lines are still bearing the brunt of the climate crisis. They can continue to ignore the consequences of their inaction. But history will judge them poorly. And we will not accept it.

“We don't need any more distant non-binding pledges. We don't need any more empty promises. We don't need any more commitments that are full of loopholes and incomplete statistics that ignore the historical emissions and climate justice yet, that is all that we are getting.

“And no that is not radical to say, just look at their track record. They have had 26 COPS they've had decades of blah, blah, blah, and where has that led us?”

“Our leaders are not leading,” she added. Addressing the schoolkids in the square directly, she said: “This is what leadership looks like.”

Earlier, Vanessa Nakate, the Ugandan activist, urged the crowd not to give up. 

"We need to continue holding leaders accountable for their actions. We cannot get quiet about climate injustice. Your actions matter. No action is too small to make a difference. And no voice is too small to make a difference.”

She added: “Three things should stay with us as we continue to organise and mobilise and strike and speak up and demand climate justice. That is faith, hope and love. And the greatness of these things is love.

"Because when we continue to love the people, when we continue to love the planet, that will be the strength we need to fight for a future that is sustainable, that is healthy, that is clean and equitable for all of us.”

Earlier in the day, Nicola Sturgeon joined COP26 President Alok Sharma and UN climate change chair Patricia Espinosa to receive a Global Youth Statement setting out young people’s demands for action.

The First Minister said: “Young people across the globe are crying out for change. 

“Today, I pledge to do what I can to deliver that change, no matter how difficult that is.

“In Scotland, we are already acting to tackle the climate emergency, but, as we have heard from children and young people this week from Scotland and around the globe, is it not enough and we must do more.

“To bring about the changes that are so urgently required, it is vital that governments engage with children and young people, encourage their participation and work with them.

“The decisions we make and the actions we take affect them - they have a right to be part of that process.”

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