The Conference and the Streets: The COP26 Weekend

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The weekend saw international attention, protest and class politics converge on Glasgow and Scotland. Conter spoke to some on the march and surrounding events to get a sense of the mood. We found little faith in the politicians and corporations dominating official proceedings.

We are yet to be told what the outcome of the COP26 conference in Glasgow will be. Over the weekend (5-7 November) around 100,000 people made clear that they demanded more than they expected from world leaders.

This fact alone speaks to the democratic gulf between rulers and ruled when it comes to climate change, and the scale of the reforms required to hold-off its worst effects. Conter spoke to young people about their perspectives at various events over the weekend.

On the Fridays For Future march, led by school students but joined by striking Glasgow cleansing workers and delegations from all over the world, including those countries experiencing the worst effects of climatic change, Jamie Grant, a young man from Stirling told Conter: “Climate change is the issue of our time. I’d feel quite shit to be honest if I thought I’d be saying to my grandkids that I wasn’t out trying to fight for their future.

The Fridays for Future protest

“The fact that there have been 26 conferences shows that this has been a long-term issue. But we are finally getting to the crunch now. The science is undeniable, and if we don’t get this issue fixed in the next few years, we have baked-in climate change that will kill millions of people.”

Keila Megan-Burns, who attended with SambaYaBamba youth samba band said: “We are going to live the future that is being discussed here. I think we should be heard as well.

“There’s less than ten years left to the point of no return. We are trying to plan our future, I’m studying. I worry all of that is pointless.”

Asked if she thought the conference would deliver, she said: “I want to put faith in the conference. I want to place faith in the COP. But I worry that would be an easy way to be let down given the record so far. Even when promises are made there’s no real accountability to see them fulfilled. So I think that’s why it’s important we come out to protest.”

The protest on Saturday was even larger, and marched across the city to Glasgow Green. Along the way, several scientists were arrested for engaging in direct action, and a peaceful bloc of the march was surrounded and ‘kettled’ by police. Eyewitnesses maintain the action was unprovoked.

Protestors kettled on the Saturday portest

One young person who had travelled from abroad to attend the conference and the protests was Delanie Accomando from New York.

Despite being a delegate to the conference, she said she didn’t trust the COP26 leaders: “My faith is with the people. I’m a delegate to the COP conference, so I’ve been in there for a few days. I keep having conversations about hope with members of the delegation, and I think when we are at events like this we here the voices that matter I feel a lot more hopeful than when I go into the blue zone. There’s so much happening behind closed doors that we can’t control.”

Workers and Unions joined the protests in large numbers, with many speakers on platforms highlighting the links between the interests of the working majority, and the future of the environment.

Trade Unionists also met at a People’s Assembly rally at Glasgow University to discuss their efforts to organise the workers who made the event possible, and had to endure the bizarre market distortions the huge event had inflicted on residents.

Bryan Simpson, an organiser for Unite Hospitality, told the gathering: “Compass Group, the largest hospitality employer in the World, terminated 630 casual workers at Scotland’s largest hospitality venue the Scottish Events Campus via facebook post. A venue 90% owned by Glasgow City Council. A venue currently hosting COP26 2 miles away…

“Instead of accepting what was being done to them – these workers got together with their colleagues, joined a union, many for the first time, and they fought back. They forced some of the largest employers in the country to re-instate them, in some cases on 100% wages and even premium payments for those still being asked to work.”

Protest actions didn’t end at the weekend, and the cleansing workers’ dispute continues, with workers going on their last day of scheduled strike on Monday (8 November).

Conter will produce analysis on any deal agreed at the climate summit, and the prospects for the movement.

Image: Suki Sangha

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