Cop26: Is Greta Thunberg attending the Glasgow summit and will she be protesting?

Teen icon planning to join march from Kelvingrove Park to city centre on 5 November to demand meaningful action from world leaders to address the climate crisis

Joe Sommerlad
Wednesday 03 November 2021 13:06
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Cop26: Greta Thunberg mobbed by activists as she arrives in Glasgow

Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who sensationally became the face of the global climate movement through her series of Fridays for Future school strikes, arrived in Glasgow on Saturday evening ahead of Cop26 - but says she has not “officially” been invited to the summit.

Prior to her arrival at Glasgow Central after taking the train from London Euston, Ms Thunberg, 18, had recorded an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr in which she said how welcome she was at the gathering of world leaders remained “very unclear”.

“I think that many people might be scared that if they invite too many radical young people, then that might make them look bad,” she added.

The activist also took the opportunity to place further pressure on heads of state to make tougher emissions commitments, to support the Queen’s reported frustration over the failure of politicians to deliver results on the environment, to express gratitude for having the right to protest in the West, given that it is denied to citizens in more authoritarian states like China, and to cautiously endorse the roadblock protests being carried out by Insulate Britain.

“To make clear, as long as no-one gets hurt... then I think sometimes you need to anger some people,” she told Mr Marr.

“Like, for instance, the school strike movement would never have become so big if there wasn’t friction, if some people didn’t get pissed off.”

As for the makeup of Cop26, Ms Thunberg was critical of the disproportionate number of delegates arriving from developed nations compared to those from less wealthy states.

“We need more representation from the so-called global south, from the most affected people and areas,” she said.

“It’s not fair when, for example, one country sends lots and lots of delegates, and then another country is very under-represented. That already creates an imbalance, and climate justice is at the very heart of this crisis.

“As long as we keep ignoring the historical responsibility of the countries of the global north and as long as we continue to ignore it, the negotiations will not have a successful outcome.”

Before disembarking in Glasgow, Ms Thunberg had been mobbed by excited activists and television crews at a demonstration against banks funding the fossil fuel industry in London on Saturday afternoon.

The teen met campaigners outside the headquarters of Standard Chartered bank as they lobbied against the global financial system for continuing to bankroll the exploitation of finite natural resources.

Ms Thunberg led the protest with chants of “We are unstoppable - another world is possible” and “What do we want? Climate justice. When do we want it? Now”.

She has said she will attend another major demonstration during her time in Glasgow on Friday 5 November, tweeting: “Climate justice also means social justice and that we leave no one behind. So we invite everyone, especially the workers striking in Glasgow, to join us. See you there! #UprootTheSystem.”

The latter point is a reference to members of the city’s cleaning, catering and transport unions, who are threatening industrial action as part of an unresolved complaint over pay and working conditions.

The march in question will commence in Kelvingrove Park in the west end of Glasgow and culminate in George Square in the city centre.

Ms Thunberg has also teamed up with Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate, 24, to send an open letter to the Cop26 nations accusing their leaders of betrayal and stressing three fundamental aspects of the climate crisis that they believe are too often downplayed: that time is running out, that any solution must bring justice to the people most affected and that the biggest polluters often hide behind incomplete statistics about their true emissions.

“As citizens across the planet, we urge you to face up to the climate emergency. Not next year. Not next month. Now,” Ms Thunberg wrote on Twitter on Sunday in a call for people to add their signatures.

While clearly hoping to instill a sense of urgency and use her huge following to corner the likes of Boris Johnson, Joe Biden and Xi Jinping into action, Ms Thunberg has previously poured scorn on the idea that anything meaningful will be agreed in Glasgow.

Asked whether she was in optimistic mood ahead of Cop26 during a recent interview with The Guardian, Ms Thunberg answered: “I am not. Nothing has changed from previous years really. The leaders will say we’ll do this and we’ll do this, and we will put our forces together and achieve this, and then they will do nothing. Maybe some symbolic things and creative accounting and things that don’t really have a big impact. We can have as many Cops as we want, but nothing real will come out of it.”

She was equally withering about Mr Johnson given that his current cheerleading for green issues coincides with support for new coal mines in Cumbria and the Cambo oil fields off Shetland.

“It’s hypocritical to talk about saving the climate as long as you’re still expanding fossil fuel infrastructure,” she said, adding that the British PM was no better or worse than any other world leader, all of whom she takes a dim view of. “Nobody has surprised me.”

Ms Thunberg followed those remarks with an appearance at a youth climate summit in Milan, Italy, at which she further ridiculed Mr Johnson with a derisive imitation of his current favourite slogan: “Build Back Better. Blah, blah, blah. Green economy. Blah blah blah. Net zero by 2050. Blah, blah, blah.”

She reiterated that stance during her BBC interview on Sunday when she was asked her opinion of the UK’s sincerity on climate change by Mr Marr given chancellor Rishi Sunak’s recent announcement that there would be a 50 per cent cut in air passenger duty for domestic flights.

“Of course we can’t talk about this in, like, one single policy and so on,” she answered. “But when you see a pattern of these policies, that all the time are avoiding taking real action, then I think you can draw conclusions from that pattern. That climate action is not really our main priority right now.”

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