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The real COP26: Activists, campaigners and the public on why they came to Glasgow

Amid frustration with the high level discussions, we spoke to COP26 campaigners who are building alliances in fringe events and protests.

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Concerns are growing that the UN climate conference may not secure the commitment needed to avert climate chaos, yet COP26 campaigners are still finding reasons to hope.

To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, scientists have warned that we must keep global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees or lower. Critics say COP26 is on track to miss that goal.

Speaking at the Fridays For Future protest in George Square, Greta Thunberg said: “It is not a secret that COP26 is a failure. It should be obvious that we cannot solve a crisis with the same methods that got us into it in the first place.”

Thunberg is among thousands of protesters, campaigners and famous faces who have descended upon Glasgow – but why are they here? And what have they learned? The Big Issue hit the streets to find out.

COP26 campaigners Chris Packham
Chris Packham: Out here there’s such a wealth of ideas, energy, ambition

Chris Packham, naturalist and TV presenter

I’ve learned a lot, not at the table, but out here on the street at the fringe events. I’ve also come looking for inspiration. Because it takes a lot of fuel and energy to keep up the momentum required to constantly strive to be making a difference.

Out here in those fringe events, there’s such a wealth of ideas, energy, ambition. People are really coming together, forming a concerned community that I think we will need to make the difference. Because maybe that’s not happening in those big buildings down the road.

We’ve seen grandstanding. We’ve seen some promises. And we’ve seen targets set way too long into the future. We then seen some of them leave on private jets after eating meat meals. They’re setting targets that are too far ahead in the future. Why are we talking about stopping deforestation in nine years time? We’ve been talking about the need to stop deforestation since I was watching Blue Peter in black and white in 1960.

We want action now, not then. It should have been yesterday.  It has to be today.

COP26 Campaigners: Brianna Fruean
Brianna Fruean: We are feeling the consequences of inaction

Brianna Fruean, Samoan climate campaigner

Our collective hope is to bring the voice of the Pacific to make sure that our world leaders and our negotiators and everyone within this space know that young Pacific people are watching them because we are feeling very much the consequences of inaction.

COP26 Campaigners: Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn: Solidarity around the world will bring change

Jeremy Corbyn, MP

I want to be here to meet trade unions to meet voluntary organisations and meet many other people from other parts of the world. So that we’re all better informed, because it is solidarity around the world that’s going to bring change.

Liz Lawrence: You have to try and find things to be hopeful about
Liz Lawrence: You have to try and find things to be hopeful about

Liz Lawrence, singer, songwriter and guitarist

I think that you have to try and find things to be hopeful about and that was why I came.

Finlay Asher: This is a great opportunity to meet other like-minded people
Finlay Asher: This is a great opportunity to meet other like-minded people

Finlay Asher, Green Sky Thinking campaigner

I’m not going to go to any of the official events because we know what’s going to happen there. It’s just going to be the same old stuff just being regurgitated. So it’s all about we need people-led movements, we need worker-led movements, citizen-led movements. We need to connect to other activists in other countries to push politicians in all of our countries at the same time and recognise that they don’t have our best interests at heart.

This is a great opportunity to meet other like-minded people, and plan and plot; strategise, organise and mobilise.

John Robb: I want people to know that they can actually have a better life
John Robb: I want people to know that they can actually have a better life

John Robb, journalist and singer

I think if you’re going to try and try and make a change, you just got to get right in the nitty gritty on the front line and make the change. In the pandemic, I was working lots of ideas, and one of them is a Green Education Apprenticeship Scheme I was trying to set up, training people to do green jobs in the whole of the UK. It’s a stupidly ambitious idea but we might actually pull this off because I’ve worked with some really interesting people on it. There’s a lot people I can talk about that here.

In our little artsy fartsy world these are these are easy issues to embrace. But what’s a normal person to get out of it? They just think: that’s just what weirdos are into. I want people to know that they can actually have a better life and make money and get jobs out of it. Even run the companies.

COP26 campaigner Caroline Rance: I'm here to fight for real solutions
Caroline Rance: I’m here to fight for real solutions

Caroline Rance, climate and energy campaigner, Friends of the Earth Scotland

There’s a lot of world leaders gathered inside the conference venue who are giving us a lot of empty promises. So I’m here as part of the global campaign to demand climate justice to fight together for real solutions to the climate crisis, for more ambition, for more finance and for more action.

John Bird: You can do something for future generations
John Bird: You can do something for future generations

John Bird, founder of The Big Issue

I’m also here to tell everybody about what The Big Issue is doing around climate change, and around future generations. We’re showing that, actually, you can do something for future generations if you start politically acting and socially acting now.

Rosemary Harris: COP26 is an opportunity to really amplify the struggles around the globe
Rosemary Harris: COP26 is an opportunity to really amplify the struggles around the globe

Rosemary Harris, Platform’s Just Transition campaign

I work on a project with North Sea oil workers to try and create a just transition for the North Sea.

COP26 is a pretty big one in terms of creating the policies that we need to avert a catastrophic climate breakdown.

But also it’s an opportunity to really amplify the struggles around the globe. And it’s not just about the leaders, it’s about all the people from around the world are coming to COP and using this opportunity to make their demands heard.

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