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

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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 - image credit)
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 - image credit)

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.

"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.

Kyle Bakx/CBC
Kyle Bakx/CBC

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.

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.

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.

Kyle Bakx/CBC
Kyle Bakx/CBC

Thunberg rallies crowd

Jon Super/The Associated Press
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:

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.

Kyle Bakx/CBC
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."

Kyle Bakx/CBC
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:

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.

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.

Kyle Bakx/CBC
Kyle Bakx/CBC
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