Thousands of protesters—mostly young people—marched through the streets of the Scottish city of Glasgow on Friday, demanding swifter and bolder action from world leaders attending the United Nations climate conference to address the climate crisis.
Young climate activists held placards reading “Act now,” “Burn the system, not the planet,” and “No more blah, blah, blah” as they urged rich nations to deliver climate justice to people bearing the brunt of a warming world.
The youth-led climate strike was organized by Fridays for Future, the international movement that began after Swedish activist Greta Thunberg staged a solo protest in 2018.
Thunberg labeled COP26 a “failure” and a “PR event.” The climate conference taking place in the city was billed as the last chance to avert the catastrophic impacts of climate change.
“This is now a global north greenwash festival, a two-week celebration of business as usual and blah, blah, blah,” the 18-year-old activist said.
“The most affected people in the most affected areas still remain unheard and the voices of the future generations are drowning in their greenwash and their empty promises,” she added.
During the first week of the summit, governments promised to halt deforestation, phase out coal, and cut emissions of greenhouse gas methane. But for campaigners, the pledges were underwhelming.
To set off “irreversible chain reaction beyond human control,” Thunberg called for immediate and drastic annual emission cuts “unlike the world has ever seen.”
Filipino activist Jon Bonifacio told the crowd the Philippines is one of the nations highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. An archipelagic country in Pacific, the Philippines is hit by an average of 20 cyclones every year, which wipe out harvests and destroy homes.
The Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines activist criticized international leaders for ignoring the developing nations and for not doing enough.
“The climate crisis is an issue of today, not 2050, not 2030. Each second these world leaders delay action toward global mitigation and action condemns billions across the world to an unlivable future,” Bonifacio said.
“If COP26 will just be a space for our world leaders to talk about one another, then we will make our own space. The youth, alongside other oppressed sectors and society, will forge our way forward to build a sustainable future that is just and puts people and the planet over profit,” he added.
Bonifacio also called out the Duterte administration for cracking down on environmental activism with the passage of anti-terrorism law, which environmentalists said has put the lives of defenders at risk of being tagged as terrorists.
The Philippines has been consistently identified as the most dangerous country in Asia for environment and land activists by watchdog Global Witness.
Ahead of the protest, young activists submitted a global youth statement to COP26 president Alok Sharma and the UN climate change agency, which lists down their top policy demands. These include the need for effective national climate plans and policies that promote transition to renewable energy sources.
The Philippines sent a 19-person delegation to Glasgow, which is dominated by officials from the finance and foreign affairs department. Missing from the team are members of civil society organizations and youth climate activists.
Marinel Ubaldo, a survivor of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), said it is critical that young Filipinos have a presence in the global climate conference.
“We have to make sure the voices of the marginalized, especially those grassroots climate activists who are not here, will be heard,” Ubaldo told Philstar.com in the sidelines of the gathering.
She expressed hope that young people, through their activism, will help drive change.
“To our fellow youth activists from the Philippines, never ever estimate your power to make a change. We have to sustain our resistance. We have to make sure that we give justice to those who have perished because of climatic disasters, we have to make sure that we get the justice that we deserve because we also have the right to live in a safe environment,” Ubaldo said.
Another demonstration, which is expected to draw up 50,000 people, will happen in Glasgow on Saturday.
This story was originally published in Philstar.com on November 6, 2021. It was 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: Protest at George Square in Glasgow, United Kingdom / Credit: Gaea Katreena Cabico