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Activists from developing countries band together at a climate justice rally in Glasgow. Photo by Pia Ranada/Rappler
Glasgow, Scotland

'Activists assemble': Glasgow March Spotlights Vulnerable Countries' Call for Climate Justice

Despite biting winds and on-and-off rain, a big climate justice march filled the streets of Glasgow with color and life, seeking to stand for what activists demanded of world leaders: action and not empty promises.

Among the most vibrant and passionate voices in the Saturday, November 6 rally were activists from the "Global South" – a term referring to developing countries who face the worst effects of global warming despite being the least responsible for greenhouse gas emissions.

At Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow, where the rally started at around 11 am, activists from Asia and Africa passed each other the megaphone and cheered each other on as they voiced their demands from the world's big polluters.

"What we want from COP is not for world leaders just talking there in the conferences, making empty promises. What we want is clear action," said Jon Bonifacio, a Filipino from the Fridays for Future Most Affected People and Areas.

"Two things: One, immediate and just and genuine reparations for the Global South for the historic injustices that the Global North has brought upon us.... We also want immediate and just emissions reduction pathways that are in line with the 1.5 [degrees Celsius] limitation," he said, surrounded by fellow activists from the Third World.

Hailey Tan, a 22-year-old Malaysian activist and deputy chairperson of Klima Action Malaysia, called for governments to include indigenous peoples in their plans to use customary lands and natural resources for reducing carbon emissions.

"The Global North is responsible, yet the Global South and the people living in the margins are caught in these injustices," said Tan.

A Kenyan activist who identified herself as Romina said African nations are demanding clear plans from developed countries on funding to help their communities thrive amid a hotter planet.

Rich nations were supposed to provide $100 billion in climate finance starting 2020, but this target has been moved to 2023.

Meanwhile, the effects of climate change – like intense droughts, stronger typhoons, and rising sea levels – abide by no timeline and continue to pummel developing countries.

"World leaders, we are not going to take your word any longer.... Are we planning to make a better ecosystem for us all? We don't have to pay for your actions," said the young Kenyan activist.

"Climate justice in Tibet!" cried Tibetans as they carried the blue and red of their national flag through Glasgow streets.

Tribes from the Amazon wore their traditional dress as they demanded participation in climate policies and action against deforestation.

American protesters shouted, "COP! Cop out!" – a concise declaration of a sense of disillusionment about the nearly three-decade climate negotiations common among activists.

The march swelled as it flowed through Glasgow's streets, with many Glaswegians of all ages joining in. Some even brought their babies in their prams, protected from the rain by a plastic sheet. Many brought their dogs, either on leashes or carried by arm.

Despite their impassioned cries and an idealism that pierces through their cynicism, there's no certainty that the appeals of the activists will be satisfactorily answered by power wielders negotiating inside the COP26 venue.

While governments wrangle over the wording of climate pacts, and the interest of one bloc of countries often lock horns with those of another bloc, activists prove one thing: International solidarity is alive in the streets, if not in negotiating rooms.

This story was originally published by Rappler on November 7, 2021. It produced as part of the 2021 Climate Change Media Partnership, a journalism fellowship organized by Internews' Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Center for Peace and Security.

Banner image: Activists from developing countries band together at a climate justice rally in Glasgow / Credit: Pia Ranada/Rappler