GLASGOW, Scotland — Environmental activists expressed anger Monday at what they consider the slow pace of action to curb climate change at protests being held near COP6 talks in Glasgow on Monday.
Youth campaigners from several countries marched on the opposite bank of the River Clyde from where the U.N. climate summit, known as COP26, was being held, holding banners with slogans such as “We are watching you.”
Swedish activist Greta Thunberg accused world leaders and government officials inside the conference of “pretending to take our future seriously.”
“Change is not going to come from inside,” she said, adding: “No more blah blah blah. No, whatever the (expletive) they’re doing inside there.”
Earlier Monday, Kenyan climate activist Elizabeth Wathuti made an impassioned appeal to world leaders to “open your hearts” to those already feeling the effects of global warming, saying that drought in her home country means many are going without food.
“As I sit comfortably here in this conference center in Glasgow, over 2 million of my fellow Kenyans are facing climate-related starvation,” she said.
The protests come as world leaders turned up the heat and resorted to end-of-the-world rhetoric on Monday in an attempt to bring new urgency to the COP26 climate summit being held in Glasgow.
The metaphors were dramatic and mixed at the start of the talks. For British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, global warming was “a doomsday device” strapped to humanity. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres told his colleagues that people are “digging our own graves.” And Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, speaking for vulnerable island nations, added moral thunder, warning leaders not to “allow the path of greed and selfishness to sow the seeds of our common destruction.”
After apocalyptic warnings from those three and a few others, a handful of more sedate — sometimes detailed — speeches followed. U.S. President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel avoided soaring rhetoric and delved into wonky policy.
“There’s no more time to sit back,” Biden said in a more measured warning that also apologized for his predecessor’s temporarily pulling the U.S. out of the historic 2015 Paris agreement, something he said put the country behind in its efforts. “Every day we delay, the cost of inaction increases.”
In addition to coaxing big carbon-polluting nations to promise more stringent emission cuts, French President Emmanuel Macron said European nations now have to shift from promises to action.
Earlier, Johnson — who is hosting the summit in the Scottish city of Glasgow — likened an ever-warming Earth’s position to that of fictional secret agent James Bond: strapped to a bomb that will destroy the planet and trying to defuse it.
He told leaders that the only difference now is that the “ticking doomsday device” is not fiction and “it’s one minute to midnight on that doomsday clock.” The threat now is climate change, triggered by the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, and he noted that it all started in Glasgow with James Watt’s steam engine powered by coal.
Johnson also pointed out that the more than 130 world leaders gathered for the leaders’ summit portion of the U.N. climate conference had an average age of over 60, while the generations most harmed by climate change aren’t yet born.
The conference aims to get governments to commit to curbing carbon emissions fast enough to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. The world has already warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit). Current projections based on planned emissions cuts over the next decade are for it to hit 2.7C (4.9F) by the year 2100.
Increased warming over coming decades would melt much of the planet’s ice, raise global sea levels and greatly increase the likelihood and intensity of extreme weather, scientists say. With every tenth of a degree of warming, the dangers soar faster, they say.
The other goals for the meeting are for rich nations to give poor nations $100 billion a year in climate aid and to reach an agreement to spend half of the money to adapt to worsening climate impacts.