Climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks on the main stage in George Square as part of the Friday for Future Scotland rally during the COP26 summit in Glasgow. Photo date: Friday, November 5, 2021.
Jane Barlow | PA photos | Getty Images
GLASCOW, Scotland – Climate activist Greta Thunberg said Friday the COP26 climate summit was a failure, and criticized UN-brokered talks for turning them into a public relations exercise.
“It is no secret that COP 26 failed. It must be clear that we cannot solve the crisis with the same methods that got us to it in the first place,” Thunberg said.
“The COP has turned into a public relations event, with leaders giving beautiful speeches and announcing imaginary commitments and goals, while behind the curtains the governments of the Global North still refuse to take any drastic climate action.”
She was speaking on stage shortly after a strike organized by Fridays for Future that saw thousands march from Kelvingrove Park to George Park in downtown Glasgow – less than two miles from the venue for the COP26 event.
The UK is chairing COP26 until 12 November, a major climate event considered one of the most important diplomatic meetings in history.
It has yielded some positive developments, including pledges to end and reverse deforestation, an agreement to cut methane emissions levels by 30% by 2030, and new commitments to phase out coal power.
However, experts have deep concerns about whether countries and companies can keep the 1.5°C target alive. This critical temperature threshold points to the ambitious goal of the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement.
Thunberg said COP26 has been described as “the most exclusionary COP ever,” saying those standing at the sharp end of the climate crisis have been unheard of. She added that the event could be considered “a two-week celebration of business as usual and such and such and such.”
“The UK is committed to hosting the inclusive COP,” a COP26 spokesperson said in a statement to CNBC.
“Ensuring that the voices of the people most affected by climate change are heard is a priority for the COP26 presidency, and if we are to give back to our planet, we need all countries and civil society to bring their ideas and ambitions to Glasgow,” he added.
Policy makers and business leaders are under tremendous pressure to meet the demands of the climate emergency at COP26. Yet even as many publicly acknowledge the need to transition to a low-carbon society, hopes for limiting global warming to 1.5°C are rapidly fading.
Climate scientists have repeatedly asserted that the best weapon to counter rising global temperatures is to cut greenhouse gas emissions — quickly.
Thunberg was notorious for missing school every Friday for a weekly vigil outside the Swedish parliament in 2018. It sparked an international wave of school strikes, with millions of children participating in rallies around the world.
“Once again, we’re having another COP event. How many more should they keep until they realize that their inaction is destroying the planet?” Vanessa Nakati, a climate activist from Uganda, said at the same event on Friday.
“Today we will continue to fight everywhere we can. We cannot give up now. We need to continue to hold leaders accountable for their actions. We cannot remain silent about climate injustice,” she added.
“Change will not come from within”
Speaking at a protest outside the COP26 complex earlier this week, Thunberg once again criticized world leaders for not doing enough to meet the demands of the climate emergency.
“This COP26 is very similar to previous COPs – and that got us nowhere,” Thunberg said Monday, addressing climate activists.
“Within the COP, there are only politicians and people in power who pretend to take our future seriously,” she said. “Change will not come from within, this is not leadership. This is leadership, this is what leadership looks like.”
She had previously expressed her frustration with climate inaction at the Youth4Climate Summit in Milan, Italy in late September.
“Net zero by 2050. Blah, blah, blah. Net zero. Blah, blah, blah. Climatic neutral. Blah, blah, blah. That’s all we hear from our so-called leaders. Words that sound great but so far have said Thunberg in That time: “It didn’t lead to any work. Our hopes and dreams are drowned out in their empty words and promises.”