Youth climate activists will take to the streets of Glasgow this weekend
As COP26 reaches a halfway mark, many longtime environmental advocates are projecting a sense of optimism. They say governments and corporations have made significant pledges this week that will move the world closer to staving off climate catastrophe.
Manish Bapna, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, told The Climate 202 that nations have already made significant commitments preventing deforestation, reducing methane emissions and halting financing for fossil fuel projects overseas.
“COP26 is probably unfolding in a way that exceeds expectations compared to where we were a couple months ago, in no small part because I do think we’ve seen a few countries — a few important countries — step up,” Bapna said.
But youth climate activists are unimpressed. They note that the world is still woefully off track from the more ambitious goal of the Paris agreement, which aimed to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, The Post's Brady Dennis reports.
Swedish activist Greta Thunberg has coined the phrase “blah blah blah” to describe the climate commitments of world leaders such as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The 18-year-old also shouted “No more greenwashing!” while walking out of a panel on carbon offsets on Wednesday.
In addition, youth climate activists have called COP26 the most exclusive U.N. climate summit ever. They note that hundreds of people from vulnerable countries have been shut out of the conference by a lack of vaccine access and the expense of traveling to Glasgow.
“No one who is actually important is here. The people who are actually important are back at home,” Raeesah Noor-Mahomed, a 19-year-old from South Africa, told our colleague Hannah Jewell.
Ultimately, it will be young people — not gray-haired diplomats — whose lives and livelihoods are most affected by climate disasters such as wildfires, heat waves and floods in the coming decades. And the youth activists plan to call out the adults deciding their future in a big way this weekend.
Tens of thousands of young people from around the world will descend on Glasgow starting today for a series of massive protests. As COP26 President Alok Sharma asks negotiators to meet Saturday to resolve outstanding issues, here's what to know about the scene on the streets outside the conference venue:
- Thunberg will lead a march of striking students organized by Fridays for Future Scotland starting at 11:30 a.m. GMT today in Kelvingrove Park, about a 20-minute walk from the conference center.
- The Swedish teenager has encouraged striking trash collectors to join the event. That could lead to an environmentally unfriendly sight — overflowing trash cans — at the world's largest environmental conference, The Post's Karla Adam reports.
- In addition to Thunberg, high-profile speakers will include 24-year-old Filipino activist Mitzi Jonelle Tan and 24-year-old Ugandan activist Vanessa Nakate.
- On Saturday, a “Global Day of Action for Climate Justice” will include more than 200 events in Glasgow and online. “The programme features everything from workshops on how to sue an international fossil fuel company to a ‘Toxic Tour’ of Glasgow’s biggest polluters,” a press release boasts.
Paris agreement negotiator weighs in on COP26
The Climate 202 sat down with Rémy Rioux, who served as a top negotiator for France at the 2015 U.N. climate talks that led to the Paris agreement, at COP26 this week.
Rioux, who is now chief executive of the French Development Agency, said that if he had told fellow negotiators in Paris that there would be a global consensus in Glasgow on the need to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, he would have been laughed out of the room.
“The long-term perspective is clarifying, and all countries are somehow converging on net zero by midcentury, which was not the case in Paris, when we said the second part of the century,” he said. “And so that's extremely important for all the actors, including the financial actors.”
Rioux added that despite the troubles dogging President Biden's legislative agenda, it is “very good news” to have the United States back at the negotiating table after four years under former president Donald Trump.
As I wandered through COP26 on Thursday, I heard loud singing and chanting. I followed the noise to a crowded hallway where more than a dozen youth activists were chanting “Whose planet? Our planet! Whose future? Our future!"
Journalists and others stopped to capture the demonstration on their phones, partially blocking the hallway. It was a teaser of the much larger marches coming this weekend.
In celebrity sightings, actress Emma Watson joined a surprise panel on Thursday hosted by the New York Times' Climate Hub. Another star-studded speaker was Pakistani activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai.
Elsewhere in the conference center on Thursday, a large red neon sign proclaimed “Hurry Up It's Time." The sign is the work of British contemporary artist Cornelia Parker, according to the inscription. And the quote is from the poem “The Waste Land” by T.S. Eliot, who in turn borrowed the line from British pub owners' instructions to customers that they're closing the bar and people should go home.
“This work is intended to remind us that we need to act fast. We are all in the last chance saloon, but politicians are not responding quickly enough to avoid climate disaster,” Parker said in the inscription.
Ironically, conference attendees were hurrying — right past the sign and without looking up.
On the Hill
First in The Climate 202: New bill targets fossil fuel financing
Sens. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) will introduce legislation today to require the nation's largest banks to curtail their financing of fossil fuel projects, according to bill text shared exclusively with The Climate 202.
The Fossil Free Finance Act would require major banks and other "systemically important financial institutions" to scale back their financing of projects that emit greenhouse gases. Specifically, all banks with more than $50 billion in assets would need to reduce financed emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.
At COP26 on Wednesday, a coalition of private financial institutions announced that they had collectively pledged $130 trillion to convert the global economy to clean energy. The new legislation seeks to hold Wall Street accountable to such voluntary promises.
"In order to reduce emissions and combat climate change, we need to stop throwing money at dirty fossil fuel projects,” Markey said in a statement. “It makes no sense for us to let big banks finance investments that will make the climate crisis worse."
A companion bill was introduced in the House by Reps. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.).
House Democrats near vote on $1.75 trillion spending bill
Lawmakers met late into the night on Thursday, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) mounted an all-out push to finalize the social spending legislation, which includes a historic $555 billion investment in combating climate change.
But “Democrats ultimately did not achieve the Thursday vote that they had initially hoped to hold,” The Post's Tony Romm, Marianna Sotomayor and Mike DeBonis report. They now plan to hold a vote as soon as today.
The U.S. did not join a pledge to phase out coal because of Manchin
U.S. officials reportedly held off on signing the pledge at COP26 because of concerns that it could anger Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), who has ties to the coal industry, the New York Times's Brad Plumer and Lisa Friedman report.
Meanwhile, youth climate activists with the Sunrise Movement confronted Manchin on Thursday and demanded that he stop opposing climate provisions in Democrats' social spending bill, chanting “We want to live!”
Vulnerable nations are sounding the alarm
Representatives of vulnerable nations are calling on wealthy countries to not only follow through on their climate finance pledges but also ensure that at least half of the money goes toward helping countries adapt to the effects of climate change, The Post's Sarah Kaplan reports.
The United Nations reports that global spending on adaptation is $46 billion — which is only about 15 percent of the amount spent curbing emissions. Millions of people are already suffering amid prolonged droughts, wildfires, flooding and worsening storms, and the situation looks increasingly dire as the world remains on a path toward catastrophic warming.
The rich are the great carbon emitters, study finds
Negotiations over carbon markets hit a sticking point
The dispute over carbon markets has been bedeviling climate talks for years, and Glasgow is proving to be no different. The crux of the issue: Developing countries want a portion of any revenue from trading carbon credits to go toward helping them adapt to climate change. The European Union, however, has expressed opposition to any sort of mandatory international tax on the exchange of carbon credits, Bloomberg’s John Ainger, Ewa Krukowska and Jess Shankleman write.
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