COP26: Greta Thunberg brands climate talks two weeks of 'blah blah blah' in Glasgow protest

ITV News Scotland Correspondent Peter Smith reports on the environmental demands young people are calling on world leaders to commit to at the COP26 summit in Glasgow


Greta Thunberg accused world leaders of running a "greenwash festival" at the COP26 climate talks as she addressed thousands of young protesters in Glasgow.

The environmental campaigner told the crowd the conference, where leaders have gathered to make promises to tackle climate change, has been a "failure".

Thousands of young protesters marched in Glasgow, where the talks are happening, defying a call from the education secretary not to miss school on Friday.


Young climate protesters told ITV News they want climate action now


Ms Thunberg said world leaders are “fighting to maintain business as usual”.

She said: “This is no longer a climate conference.

“This is now a global north greenwash festival, a two-week long celebration of business as usual and blah blah blah.

Demonstrators in George Square take part in the Fridays for Future Scotland march during the Cop26 summit in Glasgow. Credit: PA/Jane Barlow

“The most affected people in the most affected areas still remain unheard and the voices of future generations are drowning in their greenwash and empty words and promises.

“But the facts do not lie. And we know that our emperors are naked.”

Ms Thunberg added: “The question we must now ask ourselves is, what is it that we are fighting for? Are we fighting to save ourselves and the living planet? Or are we fighting to maintain business as usual?

“Our leaders say that we can have both, but the harsh truth is that that is not possible in practice.”

She branded leaders “shameful” and said: “They continue to expand fossil fuel infrastructure, open up new coal mines, coal power plants, grant new oil licences and are still refusing to do even the bare minimum, like delivering, delivering on the long-promised climate finance for loss and damage to the most vulnerable and least responsible countries.”

Demonstrators during the Fridays for Future Scotland march through Glasgow during the Cop26 summit in Glasgow. Credit: PA/Andrew Milligan

The protesters, who are demanding governments to act immediately to tackle the climate crisis, marched from Kelvingrove Park to George Square, in the city centre, passing the COP26 venue at the SEC on the way.

The march was organised by youth environmental group Fridays for Future Scotland

Trade unions and refuse collectors, who are on strike to demand better working conditions, also joined the march.

The march comes after the Education Secretary urged students to protest on weekend rather than miss school. Credit: PA

The march follows comments from the education secretary on Friday morning, who said pupils shouldn't skip school for climate protests.

In a radio interview, Nadhim Zahawi urged students to protest on weekends rather than during school time.

Mr Zahawi will be launching a new Duke of Edinburgh-style award that will reward students for their commitment to stopping climate change.

The education secretary told Times Radio he would not be joining the protests.

The COP26 climate conference - what you need to know

What is COP26? When and where will it be?

Each year, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meets at what is called the Conference of the Parties (abbreviated as COP) to discuss the world's progress on climate change and how to tackle it.

COP26 is the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties summit which will be held in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November.

Who is going?

Leaders of the 197 countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – a treaty that came into force in 1994 - are invited to the summit.

These are some of the world leaders that will be attending COP26:

  • US President Joe Biden, climate envoy John Kerry, climate adviser and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, and 10 other US cabinet officials.

  • Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison. In the days leading up to COP26, Mr Morrison committed Australia to a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Prince Charles, Prince William, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge are also attending. The Queen has withdrawn from visiting after being advised by her doctors to rest - she will address the conference virtually instead.

China's President Xi Jinping, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, and President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil are among the leaders that have decided not to travel to Glasgow.

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What is it hoping to achieve?

1. Achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels - Countries are being encouraged to set ambitious 2030 emissions targets. They are also encouraged to accelerate the phase-out of coal, clamp down on deforestation, speed up the switch to electric vehicles and encourage investment in renewables.

2. Protect natural habitats and communities from climate change disasters

3. Finances for a greener future - In 2009, developed countries were asked to keep to their promises to contribute at least $100 billion (£72.5 billion) per year by 2020 to protect the planet. In 2015, it was agreed that the goal would be extended to 2025.

However, new analysis shows the goal is unlikely to have been met last year and is on track to fall short in 2021 and 2022.

4. Getting all countries and organisations to work together to tackle the climate crisis

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Mr Zahawi also plans to support teachers in educating children about nature and their impact on the world around them through a “model science curriculum”.

The Department for Education has said this will be in place by 2023.

Climate change is already taught in science and geography lessons in England as part of the curriculum.

Young people will also be able to undertake a Climate Leaders Award to celebrate and recognise their work in protecting the environment, with a national awards ceremony held every year.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said on Friday that the government had made a "mistake", before making a U-turn on Owen Paterson. Credit: PA

Students can progress through different levels of the new award – such as bronze, silver and gold – in a similar way to the Duke of Edinburgh award, which provides access to volunteering and extracurricular learning.

The education secretary will also confirm plans to pilot “energy pods” that can replace gas and coal boilers, and supply a school’s heating and hot water without any carbon emissions.

These are being tested first in some schools and, if successful, they could be rolled out across the school estate and into more public-sector buildings.



Schools, colleges and nurseries are also being encouraged to improve the biodiversity of their grounds.

Meanwhile, from next month, all further education (FE) teachers trained via an apprenticeship will be required to integrate sustainability into their teaching.

The measures, brought together in a draft sustainability and climate change strategy, will be built on over the next six months in collaboration with young people, educators, sustainability experts and environmentalists before the final publication of the strategy in April 2022.