Thousands gather in UK cities for climate change protests midway through COP26

6 November 2021, 18:53 | Updated: 6 November 2021, 22:02

Protestors gathered in cities across the UK including Glasgow, the host city of COP26
Protestors gathered in cities across the UK including Glasgow, the host city of COP26. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of the UK demanding stronger climate action from leaders in the midst of the COP26 talks.

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Protestors gathered in their thousands in cities including Glasgow, London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Newcastle, Cambridge, Bristol, Dublin and Belfast.

In Glasgow, the host city of COP26, environmental groups, charities, climate activists, trade unionists and indigenous people all braved pouring rain and wind to congregate and march through the city.

Police arrested 21 people during the climate rally in the city, saying the day had "passed largely without incident".

Officers did remove activists from the Scientist Rebellion movement who had chained themselves to the King George V Bridge, and were seen to block in other protesters in a "kettle" in the city centre.

Police refused to estimate how many people were marching, but organisers the COP26 Coalition claimed more than 100,000 people had turned out despite the weather, as an estimated 300 events were taking place worldwide.

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A fire engine, women covered in moss, Poseidon on stilts and a group of children guiding a display featuring what appeared to be a large snake wearing glasses, were among those who gathered at the starting point at Kelvingrove Park.

Jason Cook, 54, from Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire, said he and two friends - who wore helmets, each adorned with a sign which read "blah" - were marching because they were tired of hearing "blah, blah, blah" from leaders on climate action, echoing the criticism of COP26 and world leaders by campaigner Greta Thunberg.

Dave Knight, 51, from Wiltshire, added there had been "lots of words, but we really need action - the end of fossil fuels as soon as possible".

As the march entered Glasgow city centre a group of activists dressed as rats stood across the road holding smoke flares.

The group, who were acting as though they represented various sectors, were holding signs which, collectively, said: "When COP fails, buy walls, buy guns, buy bombs.

"Bye bye climate migrants - profit over planet."

Extinction Rebellion activists dressed as the Ghostbusters, along with a man wearing a sign that said "the end is nigh", were among the marchers making their way to Glasgow Green.

Hundreds of people lined the streets in support, some holding home-made signs.

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In London, thousands gathered at the Bank of England before marching through the city banging steel drums, chanting "one solution" and waving Extinction Rebellion banners reading "tell the truth".

The protestors marched to Trafalgar Square, where speakers included former Green Party leader Sian Berry.

Volkan Aran, 48, a project manager from Stoke Newington, north London, who attended with his daughter, Aylin, four, on his shoulders and his wife Psin Dumus, 43, said: "We don't accept any delays, any further talking and debates, we just want everything to start happening now, because what they (politicians) are doing is very different from what they are telling us.

"They cannot fail us again, they cannot cheat us with their declarations and we want it to be happening now for this generation, it's their future."

Sophie Blake, 33, from Kentish Town, north London, who joined the protest with her two-month-old son Kit in a baby harness, said she wanted to show him that they tried to do something, adding: "I feel compelled as a human being and I feel a bit ashamed of the world that he's going to inherit.

"The time for action has long passed, we need to make real efforts to cut global emissions right now."

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Climate protests have also taken place across the island of Ireland, with hundreds of people gathered at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin for one of the main demonstrations.

In Northern Ireland, protesters congregated in Belfast ahead of a noisy and colourful march through the city centre before a rally at City Hall.

The marches come after thousands of youth activists, including Ms Thunberg and Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate, marched through Glasgow on Friday protesting against investment in fossil fuels and failure to tackle the climate crisis.

Ms Thunberg had been expected to address the rally in Glasgow, but did not appear as it was understood she wanted to give space to other speakers as she had spoken at Friday's event.

Ms Nakate did address protesters in Glasgow on Saturday, telling marchers that communities such as hers were already being hit by temperature rises.

"It's already destruction. It's already suffering. It's already disaster. Any rise will only make things worse," she said.

And she added: "Leaders rarely have the courage to lead. It takes citizens, people like you and me, to rise up and demand action. And when we do that in great enough numbers, our leaders will move.

"Until then, we must demand that our leaders treat the climate crisis like our crisis, we must demand that our leaders stop holding meaningless summits and start taking meaningful action."

The latest demonstrations come midway through the COP26 summit, which has seen world leaders gather to set out the action they are taking and commit to curb deforestation, phase out coal, end funding for fossil fuels abroad and cut methane emissions.

But there is still a significant gap between the measures countries have committed to and what is needed to avoid more than 1.5C of warming, beyond which the worst floods, droughts, storms and rising seas of climate change will be felt.

Countries are under pressure to agree a process to increase ambition in the next decade, as well as deliver finance for developing countries to cope with the crisis and finalise the last parts of how the global Paris Agreement on climate change will work.