Young Protestors Reject COP26 – No More (Coal) Smoke and Mirrors

Tens of thousands of protestors (with some reports estimating up to 50,000) have arrived in Glasgow. They are protesting the COP26 Climate Conference and the so-called world leaders who continue to make empty promises as they talk about the urgency of the climate crisis without even listening to or acknowledging the countless voices of dissent outside of their comfy conference hall.

Climate activists from around the world, most of them under the age of 30, have travelled far and wide, and faced the sharp price increases in Glasgow for hotel, transit, and food, in order to protest the COP26 response to the climate crisis – which has been all talk and no action.

While those in power will not listen, the voices of these activists – many still teenagers – are clear: our future is on the line, and we must look to ourselves to change it because no one else will. A 20-year-old COP26 observer (not participant) said, “It’s our future. Our future is being negotiated, and we don’t have a seat at the table.” A 20-year-old climate activist from Argentina echoed that message: “We are not just passive victims of the climate crisis, but also we are part of the solution. We have to be there, and we have to have a space at the table.”

And rather than prove these activists wrong, the world governments’ negotiators are doing the only thing they can: pay lip service without seriously addressing the catastrophe. This capitalist system cannot provide the solutions to the crises it causes. So instead, those at the table make a lot of promises and say a lot of words to look like they are doing something. Protestors are showing that we are no longer fooled by their (coal) smoke and mirrors.

Within the conference center:

  • A day was spent focused on billionaires talking about how they would put trillions of dollars towards addressing climate change without any pledge to restricting fossil fuel projects or describing their reporting system. These are pledges made by the world’s richest people sustaining their position of dominance over the climate crisis. This equates to green-washing, profiting off of environmentally friendly endeavors without actually committing to addressing the environmental problems in the first place.
  • 40 countries agreed to stop investing in the production of coal power over the next two decades. China, India, and the U.S., three of the largest coal burners, did not sign on. And even if those countries did sign on, phasing out coal by 2040 is too late to prevent much of the damage that the climate crisis will inflict on us worldwide. These measures are being referred to as a “historic breakthrough,” when in reality this is the same thing we have seen from global leaders for many decades. This also does not even begin to address the natural gases burned and used, with a vastly disproportionate use from the U.S. and Russia.
  • The International Energy Agency reported that warming could be limited to 1.8 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2100, if all COP26 commitments made thus far are fulfilled on time. Scientists agree that global warming must stay under 1.5 degrees Celsius to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. These agreements don’t even keep warming under that level, and there’s absolutely nothing binding them to those pledges.
  • The day dedicated to youth involvement included a speech by 73-year-old former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and a news conference by 77-year-old U.S. climate envoy, John Kerry, without providing a platform for the numerous young voices attending.

Meanwhile, climate activists are facing increasing police resistance and surveillance. What better way to send the message that global leaders really care about the climate crisis than by oppressing those ready to take action for their future! These activists recognize that we must rely on ourselves if we are going to see any impactful changes, and they are standing up for the future of the whole world.