COP26: Scotland's school strike activists call for 'action, not words' to fight climate emergency

Young Scottish climate activists do not have their hopes up for COP26.

Sunday, 26th September 2021, 4:55 am

It is a generation which has inherited a world on the brink of climate catastrophe and sees protest not as a choice, but an obligation. They are informed, articulate, and very angry.

As the UN climate change conference looms, we speak to young people involved in Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future about why they do not trust the ‘grown-ups’ to get things done.

"I don’t understand why people don’t do it,” says Anna Brown, 19, when asked why she takes part in the School Strikes for Climate, which sees young people miss school to take to the streets to protest a lack of action on the climate crisis. "I don’t really see it as a choice. As soon as I knew what was happening, I felt like I had to do something.”

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Protesters march and hold placards as they attend the Global Climate Strike on September 20, 2019 in Edinburgh, Scotland (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

The student from Glasgow is not holding out much hope for her city’s climate summit, taking place next month.

"I think it’s quite hard to have hope for something that has constantly failed. It’s really just the status quo. We have had all these COPs but nothing has happened.”

COP26 will be the 26th climate change conference held by the UN, with a stated aim of uniting the world in tackling climate change.

"It would be amazing if all the answers came out of it but that’s highly unlikely,” says Anna, “If you hope for that you are going to get very disappointed, more anxious, and angry.”

"it's little changes now, or big changes to come": Cora Gibson is 15 from Edinburgh

She, and many others involved in Fridays for Future, is calling for action rather than words.

"I think Scotland is doing something but it isn’t fast enough. We have missed our carbon targets year-on-year."

She is calling for systemic solutions rather than individualistic ones, like trying to recycle more or catch the bus.

"These are all great things but it’s not the whole solution. We need to stop using fossil fuels now. We can’t just stop using cars unless we have infrastructure. We need accessible public transport, ideally free.

"We will have to live through it," says Lily Henderson, 16 from Inverness

“It looks radical but in 10 to 20 years’ time when everywhere’s flooding, it’s not going to seem that radical.”

"Climate change is already here, it’s already happening”

Lily Henderson, from Inverness, says: "I’m applying for uni, I’m trying to sort my life out, and I’ve got this overarching thought in the back of my mind: what about climate change?

“Natural disasters are getting worse, sea levels are rising, it’s very concerning."

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg started the school strike phenomenon with her Skolstrejk för klimatet

The 16-year-old joined Fridays for Future two years ago and now organises events in Glasgow.

She says: "I was really concerned about the climate crisis and how it’s going to affect my future.

"A lot of young people suffer eco anxiety. That’s been a motivating factor for people to get involved.”

But, at a time when she should be excited at the prospect of life, she says the future looks “very bleak”.

"With COP coming,” Lily says, “as much as it’s exciting and a great opportunity, Scotland is a world leader and it’s still not doing enough about climate change."

Lily thinks those in power are “doing an atrocious job”. She says: “It’s a lot of ‘if we say we are going to do this it will look great on paper’. Declare a climate emergency. But if you look at the nitty gritty, they are not doing it.”

Protesters march and hold placards as they take part in the Global Climate Strike in Edinburgh in 2019 (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Plans for a new oil field off Shetland have been heavily criticised as being “incompatible” with the code red emergency we are in.

“How can you do that and declare a climate emergency?” says Lily, “We need to take proper actions. Not investing in oil rigs.

Young people are so deeply concerned with the climate crisis as they are the ones who will be most affected.

“We will have to live through it,” says Lily, “I’ll be 96 in 2100. If we don't do this now, how am I going to have a life?

“At points it can feel quite hopeless, but that’s why we have to keep fighting and keep striking. It’s about making a stand.

"Climate change is already here, it’s already happening. People are already dying from it. Everybody needs to take on board the science and take action, including politicians.”

“People in power need to really take us seriously”

Cora Gibson is 15 from Edinburgh. She has been taking part in the school strikes regularly since April, and global strikes since September 2019.

“I don't think there is enough time to wait,” she says, “to go through education and do work for climate justice, it had to be done now.

"I think that lots of other kids feel a lot safer, it helps with climate anxiety – knowing that people care.”

Like her peers, Cora does not feel world leaders are doing enough to combat climate change.

She says: “I think the lack of effort is abominable and, while there are a lot of plans being made, we are not seeing enough direct action being taken.

“We need to see fossil fuel divestment immediately, an investment in green jobs, training and a proper just transition.”

At COP26, she is afraid a lot of “false promises and solutions” are going to be made.

“I'm scared because we don't have time for that any more, we need them to start changing things now, because it's little changes now, or big changes to come.”

Her message to the politicians? “Listen to the science that is constantly proving the situation is worse than people think and they have to change their ways.

"The people know we need change, and many people are really willing to do things about this issue that will ultimately effect every single person on our planet.

“People in power need to really take us seriously. We really have had enough of excuses, planning and procrastinating now, there is no time for that.”

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