Cop26: Political leaders ‘passing responsibility of saving world to young activists’

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Greta Thunberg, Emma Watson, Vanessa Nakate and other young climate activists talk at The New York Times’ Climate Hub  (Christophe Domec)
Greta Thunberg, Emma Watson, Vanessa Nakate and other young climate activists talk at The New York Times’ Climate Hub (Christophe Domec)

Greta Thunberg has called Cop26 climate summit a “failure” and said meaningful action to stop the climate crisis will only come from “massive pressure from the outside”.

Speaking at a surprise panel event chaired by Emma Watson on Thursday, the 18-year-old environmental activist said “change will not come from inside any of these conferences”.

She continued: “Without massive pressure from the outside, they will continue to get away with not doing anything and continue going ‘blah blah blah’ and not being held accountable.

“Since we are so far from what is actually needed, I think what we would consider success is for people to realise what a failure this Cop is.”

Ms Thunberg said company chief executives were using the summit for green-washing.

The panel event at The New York Times Climate Hub in Glasgow also featured poet Amanda Gorman, actor Emma Watson, and climate activist Vanessa Nakate, as well as a number of young environmental campaigners.

Ugandan Nakate told the audience the 1.5C warming target “will not be safe for communities like mine”.

She added: “Even right now, it’s already evidence that the climate crisis is ravaging different parts of the African continent.”

Ms Nakate, who met with Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon this week, hit out at political leaders’ inaction in an earlier discussion at the Climate Hub on girls’ education.

She said: “Almost every activist has been called inspiring and been told that they are going to change the world. But I think that when leaders do that they are giving us the responsibility to save the world.

“They are making us responsible if it doesn’t go well, we failed to do it.

“So I think when leaders do that, usually I send back the responsibility to them. I may be able to go to the streets... but I am not in the negotiation rooms right now.”

In this panel event, Ms Nakate warned that women and girls were on the front line of the climate crisis.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, who also appeared at the earlier panel event, echoed this point, saying: “Right now we know that there are many countries and many marginalised communities where girls are disproportionately affected by climate change.”

She added that in 2021 up to four million girls were at risk of losing their education because of climate disasters and warned that number would go up to 12.5 million in the next five years.

“As the climate risk increases, we could see more and more girls dropping out of their schools,” Ms Yousafzai said. “So climate, gender equality and girls’ education are not separate issues.”

Ms Nakate referenced the impact of cultural problems for disproportionately impacting women. She said that in Uganda “specific roles have been decided for women and girls” who are often collecting water or providing food for their families.

“They are always at the front lines when these disasters occur,” she added. “When farms are washed away, that is the hard work of women that is being washed away.”

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