COP26: Thousands of young people take over Glasgow streets demanding climate action

“What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now!” echoed throughout central Glasgow on Friday as thousands of protesters took the streets during the dedicated “Youth Day” at COP26.

Although the march was initially organized by Fridays for Future, the youth-driven movement inspired by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, people of all ages gathered at George Square to demand climate action.

From small children waving their handmade picket signs, to older adults demanding a better future for those that will come after them, the COP26 host city saw citizen activists in unprecedented numbers rallying to get their message heard.

Welsh citizen Jane Mansfield carried around a sign that read: “Code red for humanity”, the signature phrase UN Secretary General António Guterres used after the latest IPCC report published earlier this year warned of a looming climate catastrophe.

“I really care about the world that we are passing on to future generations, and what we are doing to the Global South. I live in southwest Wales and climate change is clearly happening, but we don´t even grasp what is happening in so many other parts of the world and I am scared,” she told UN News.

Latin-American Indigenous leaders were also among today’s demonstrations. They were the ones leading the march and several of them sent a loud message to world leaders: stop extracting resources and to ‘leave carbon in the ground’.

“Indigenous people are dying in the river; they’re being washed away by massive floods. Houses are being washed away, schools full of children inside, bridges, our food our crops, everything is being washed away”, they said at a stage in George Square.

Meanwhile, some activists wore bobblehead masks of presidents and prime ministers and depicted them as being arrested with signs that read “climate criminals”.

Swedish activist Greta Thunberg was the last to appear on the protest’s stage, where she criticized world leaders for their continued “blah, blah, blah” after 26 years of climate conferences and put in doubt the transparency of the commitments they have made during this COP.

“The leaders are not doing nothing; they are actively creating loopholes and shaping frameworks to benefit themselves, and to continue profiting from this destructive system. This is an active choice by the leaders to continue the exploitation of nature and people and the destruction of presents and future living conditions to take place”, she said, calling the conference a “greenwashing event”.

Other Fridays for Future members, speaking to UN News, asked for more participation and better youth representation in the negotiations that are underway at COP26.

“Every year we have been disappointed by COP, and I don’t think this year will be different. There is a sliver of hope but at the same time we don’t see enough action, we can’t achieve anything with just pledges and empty promises”, said a representative of Youth Advocates for Climate Change in the Philippines

“Negotiations are happening and yet we are here in the street, because we haven’t been included. The richest people come in their private jets and take the decisions. We are here and we won’t be ignored. We will make our own space”, another climate advocate added.