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Demonstrators march in Glasgow to demand action on climate change


Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched across Glasgow today. That's the Scottish city where the U.N. Climate Summit, known as COP26 is taking place. They're protesting what they see as inaction by world leaders to reduce CO2 emissions and avoid the most damaging effects of climate change. For more, we're joined by NPR's Frank Langfitt, who has been walking and talking with the protesters, and he's with us now. Frank, thanks so much for joining us.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Great to be here, Michel.

MARTIN: So this week, political leaders at COP26 have been announcing various agreements to protect forests and reduce the use of coal. What are the protesters unhappy about?

LANGFITT: What they say is that the measures that they're hearing out of the summit don't go far enough or fast enough. And scientists say there needs to be drastic change to avert the devastating effects of climate change in the future. I was walking on the route today, and I ran into a woman named Geraldine Houston - she's a doctor - along the sidewalk. And this is what she said.

GERALDINE HOUSTON: It just looks to me as if it's been, you know, all politicians turning up and getting their pictures taken, quite a lot of spin, lots of shaking of hands and and promises and then get on the private jets and heading back to wherever they came from. You know, I'm not sure that our generation is massively going to make any big difference, but the kids are.

LANGFITT: Why don't you think your generation will make a difference?

HOUSTON: I just don't think there's enough people worried enough.

LANGFITT: Frank, one of the themes at the summit has been smaller developing countries demanding help from the richer nations that have emitted so much CO2 and contributed to that global warming. Were they represented today in the streets of Glasgow?

LANGFITT: Yeah, they actually really stood out. There was a whole group of people from island nations who were marching along, carrying their national flags. And one of them was a guy named Shiva Goundon, and he's an activist from Fiji. And this was his take on what's going on here now.

SHIVA GOUNDON: For Pacific Islanders, it's an existential threat. Every year they have to rebuild because a major cyclone hits and destroys their communities. Pacific island communities are the least responsible for climate change in the world, yet we are the most affected by it. So from my perspective, in the first week of COP26 so far, I do not believe the global north leaders are listening to the Pacific island voices.

MARTIN: And, you know, to that end, President Biden was at the summit earlier this week, but he hasn't been able to get all the climate legislation he wants through the U.S. Congress.


MARTIN: And I was wondering if that registered with any of the protesters.

LANGFITT: It did. I mean, it registered actually inside the summit when President Biden was here speaking to people at COP26, but also along the route. There was a woman that I talked to, an artist. Her name is Rachel Lowther (ph). She was carrying a sign criticizing Joe Manchin, the West Virginia senator who's been blocking some of Biden's key climate measures. And this was what she had to say.

RACHEL LOWTHER: It's pretty clear where his interests lie. You know, supporting coal, and he's preventing exactly what we're all marching to change.

LANGFITT: Do you think that affects Biden on the world stage when he talks about trying to address climate change?

LOWTHER: If that would have passed prior to him coming here, that would have really sent a really positive signal, I think. But the fact that that stalled, it's really damaging.

LANGFITT: What does it say about America in terms of leading on climate?

LOWTHER: Well, they're not leading on climate, are they?

LANGFITT: And I got to say there was a feeling really around the summit, inside the summit earlier this week, I think people were a bit underwhelmed by Joe Biden. And he didn't come in with the kind of political momentum that would have helped him make a big impression here. And I think that what's going to happen next this week at the summit, we're going to see sort of nitty-gritty negotiations in hopes of turning some of these pledges into real action. And that's the kind of thing that I think the climate activists here in Glasgow are really going to be looking for.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Frank Langfitt in Glasgow. Frank, thank you so much.

LANGFITT: Great to talk, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.