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Climate Activists Stage Mass COP26 Walkout Over "Failed" Efforts From World Leaders

Hundreds of activists staged a walkout from the Glasgow venue on Friday

4 min read

Hundreds of climate activists have left the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow over opposition to the latest version of the draft deal released on Friday.

Members of climate groups, charities and trade unions staged the mass demonstration on the final day of the climate talks with activists saying the current deal would be a "death sentence" for vulnerable communities.

A new draft text published early on Friday morning called on nations to take tougher climate pledges from next year, but appeared to dilute the wording around the phase-out of fossil fuels. 

Speaking to PoliticsHome, Elise Kristine Sydendal from the 350 Climate Movement in Denmark, said she had joined the protest to make a "statement" over the exclusionary nature of COP.

She said the walkout happened following a series of speeches from "indigidenous people, disabled peope, and all the voices that haven't been heard". 

"We really have not been heard and the UN system is not made for making rapid decisions on things like climate change and decarbonising," she said.

"These are the things we really need right now, because people are suffering.

"The walkout was a big statement to show this is not how it should be just now. The system is so bad and it can't change anything, we've seen that in 26 COPs now."

Holding a red rope to signify the "red lines" in the climate talks, the group chanted "power to the people" and urged world leaders to deliver "climate justice" in the final text.

Countries in the developing world have also expressed frustration at the current state of the deal, citing continued sticking points around financing and support to help them offset the impacts of climate change.

Negotiators in Glasgow are still working to finalise the deal by the 6pm deadline, although it is expected that talks will to be extended into the weekend.

The mass walkout, which saw hundreds of participants leave the Glasgow conference centre to join protestors outside was aimed at putting further pressure on negotiators to take tougher action on preventing the impact of climate change on vulnerable nations.

Cathy Orlando, from the Canda chapter of Citizen's Climate Education, said her country "had to pay" to help protect countries most at risk.

"We are on a see-saw," she said. "There has been progress but there is a lot of work to be done. We need to protect our friends in the Global South in a realistic way, we need to listen."

Maya Ozbayoglu, from Climate Action Network Europe, said the group was "striking" because be the "leaders that are inside right now are not taking enough action".

"They've pledged to give $100bn to devloping countries by 2020, but in the current draft, we see that the pledge has moved to 2025," she said.

"But we know that countries in the Global South that are most affected need this money right now – not only money to deal with future events, but for events that have already happened."

Pointing to a recent report by climate experts who concluded the current pledges would still lead to 2.4 degrees Celsius of warming by 2100, she added: "The 1.5 [plan] is not a concrete target. It is just urging the countries to pledge to move towards 1.5.

"We know that's a death sentence for the most vulnerable communities, and also maybe crosses a tipping point which might lead to the extinction of our species in general.

"It just shows this conference is a failure towards the most impacted and the towards humanity in general."

Ozbayoglu said the decision to walk out showed the "true power lies in the hands of the people".

"When leaders just talk and say blah, blah blah, we have to take the action ourselves," she said

"We know that fossil fuel companies have their biggest delegation with more that 500 people representing them. That is bigger than any single country's delegation which is absurd considering that this is a climate conference."

The walkout came just minutes before COP26 president Alok Sharma thanked negotiators for their efforts but implored them to "rise to the occassion" in the final hours.

He added: "I need your pragmatic and workable solutions to come forward... we need that final injection of that 'can do' spirit to get this shared endeavour over the line."

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