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Thousands fill Glasgow streets demanding more action and ambition from UN climate summit

Thousands of people marched through the heart of Glasgow Friday, demanding world leaders take more decisive action to tackle climate change as the COP26 UN climate summit continues in Scotland.

'It is not a secret that COP26 is a failure,' climate activist Greta Thunberg tells rally

Youths join Greta Thunberg in climate rally near COP26

3 months ago
Duration 2:00
Thousands of young climate activists marched down the streets of Glasgow, Scotland, on Friday, demanding world leaders do more to address climate change. Greta Thunberg made an appearance, calling the COP26 climate summit a 'failure' for its lack of drastic action. 2:00

Our planet is changing. So is our journalism. This story is part of a CBC News initiative entitled Our Changing Planet to show and explain the effects of climate change and what is being done about it.


Before Friday's demonstration began, Sophia Mathur was in awe of how many people had packed into a park on the west side of Glasgow for a climate action rally.

The teenager from Sudbury, Ont., is attending the COP26 UN climate summit in Scotland and made sure not to miss this event.

Thousands of people marched a few kilometres through the heart of the city demanding world leaders take more decisive action to tackle climate change. The chanting, yelling and drumming could be heard from several blocks away.

On Day Six of the COP26 climate summit in Scotland Friday, thousands of people took to the streets of Glasgow for a climate rally that was part of the Fridays for Future climate strike movement. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

"I really want to participate in these protests and continue to raise awareness and say that we actually care about this and that we want action," she said.

The Conference of Parties (COP) meets every year and is the global decision-making body set up in the 1990s to implement the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and subsequent climate agreements.

Sophia Mathur, who lives in Sudbury, Ont., has taken part in climate strikes for the past three years. She attended the rally in Glasgow and was impressed by its size. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

The 26th climate conference has reached its midpoint and some progress has been made, including pledges on phasing out methane, coal and fossil-fuel funding. Still, some of the deals lack important details or don't involve some of the largest polluting countries.

  • CBC's Avneet Dhillon is in Glasgow for our social platforms. Follow her posts on Instagram and Snapchat

Friday's rally and another planned for Saturday are geared toward spurring nations to do more.

"I hope it will bring some attention to what we are trying to do and hopefully the political leaders will notice," said Sadie Vipond, a 15-year-old from Calgary.

Climate strikes are important to Sadie Vipond, who is from Calgary, because she says they give her a chance to be part of a larger movement. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

Thunberg rallies crowd

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg salutes after giving a speech at a climate demonstration held Friday in Glasgow, Scotland, which is currently hosting the COP26 UN climate summit. (Jon Super/The Associated Press)

The rally began in the morning and lasted through the afternoon, highlighted by speeches and an appearance by activist Greta Thunberg.

"It is not a secret that COP26 is a failure," she told the crowd.

"It should be obvious that we cannot solve a crisis with the same methods that got us into it in the first place. And more and more people are starting to realize this."

WATCH | Greta Thunberg shares her views on COP26:

Greta Thunberg denounces COP26 as a failure

3 months ago
Duration 2:22
Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg spoke before a climate rally in Glasgow on Friday, where she criticized the political leaders of the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference, also taking place in Scotland, for failing to produce any real change for the environment.(Credit: REUTERS/Russell Cheyne) 2:22

Between 10,000 and 20,000 people from the U.K. and around the world were expected at the rally, which was part of the Fridays for Future climate strike movement that Thunberg began in 2018 when she refused to attend school on Fridays to protest climate issues.  

"If climate change keeps going on, our planet Earth will die," said Arlo, 6, who lives in Glasgow.

Most world leaders left the climate summit after the first few days earlier this week, but government ministers and delegates remain.

Arlo, from Glasgow, attended the rally and brought a sign that said 'Don't COP out on our future.' (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

Rallies put pressure on governments

Temitope Onifade, a graduate student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, who focuses on climate policy, said these types of demonstrations can make a difference.

"If you just rely on governments, they're not going to do much. But when people apply pressure, that helps," he said on the sidelines of the march. "It makes governments really know that these things matter to us.

"We need civil society action to drive government toward greater ambition and action."

The march began in Kelvingrove Park and moved east to George Square in Glasgow. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

Canada has made several announcements at the UN-organized summit thus far, including a phasing out of funding that helps oilpatch companies operate and expand internationally.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and some of his cabinet ministers have also lobbied their counterparts to phase out coal-burning power plants and to adopt a universal carbon tax.

Canada a contradiction

Still, Canada is a contradiction, considering its own emissions aren't declining at the same time as oil and natural gas production increases, said David Tindall, a sociology professor at the University of British Columbia who focuses some of his research on climate change.

"Canada has this kind of weird position in that we have a pretty good reputation, but we actually have a very poor performance," he said.

WATCH | Thousands of young activists march at COP26:

Youth climate march at COP26 draws thousands

3 months ago
Duration 0:36
Thousands of young climate activists, Greta Thunberg among them, marched through Glasgow on Friday demanding action on the climate that will protect their future. (Dylan Martinez/Reuters) 0:36

He describes the youth climate movement and the Fridays for Future climate strikes as "one of the most successful social movements of the past decade," considering how many people are taking part in the demonstrations.

  • Have questions about COP26 or climate science, policy or politics? Email us: ask@cbc.ca. Your input helps inform our coverage.

In recent years, the popularity of the movement has helped propel Thunberg into a star of the climate movement. She has been referenced countless times at the UN conference, including in the opening address by the COP president.

Officers stood along the streets as demonstrators walked by. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kyle Bakx

Reporter

Kyle Bakx is a Calgary-based journalist with CBC's network business unit. He's covered stories across the country and internationally.

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