If representatives of national governments could not achieve much success at the Glasgow climate talks earlier this month, young people stand ready to act. Well away from the Scottish Event Centre where COP-26 convened, a youth power rally attracted tens of thousands. “The climate and ecological crises are already here,” said Ugandan activist Vanessa Nakate, a stand-in for Swedish teen Greta Thunberg at the mass demonstration Saturday, November 6. “Leaders rarely have the courage to lead. It takes citizens, people like you and me, to rise up and demand action.
“And when we do that in great enough numbers, our leaders will move. Until then, we must demand that our leaders treat the climate crisis like a crisis.
“We must demand that our leaders stop holding meaningless summits and start taking meaningful action.”
Their defiance was in stark contrast to the collegiality and soft-spoken diplomacy inside the COP-26 plenary halls. But it was not just the youth who demanded direct and immediate action. Twenty-one scientists blocked a major bridge near the event center in a deliberate move to force police to arrest them.
Scientists Rebellion activists chained themselves together across King George V Bridge to block traffic, protesting the lack of urgency among representatives of nearly 200 governments.
“Scientists have spent decades writing papers, advising governments, briefing the press… all have failed,” the group said in a statement. “What is the point in documenting in ever greater detail the catastrophe we face if we are not willing to do anything about it?”
Two days later Scientists Rebellion returned to the “scene of the crime” or at least nearby to stage a teach-in. They exposed what they considered the major fallacies of the UN process meant to address the climate problem.
One of those was that planting huge new forests will solve the problem. Another is that new carbon capture technologies can make a big difference. Chief among those fallacies is that governments will enact measures to effectively halt global warming.
The UN COP process “is a pacifying tool that serves to bail out the existing power structure and prevent the radical change that is necessary,” a spokesman for the rebellion explained.
Much the same point was made at the Saturday youth rally at Glasgow Green park. One of the speakers representing indigenous groups put it this way. “We are not here to offer our indigenous solutions to your climate problem that colonialism created. We are not here to fix your COP agenda. We are here in spite of it. We are here to disrupt it.”
In fact, since the beginning of the COP (conference of the parties) process at the Earth Summit in 1992, inclusion of indigenous interests has been problematic. Why that is so may be obscure until the process is seen from a colonial perspective.
Native groups, or nations, may not concede that the official national governments that have signed on as “parties” to the UN process are legitimate representatives of their interests as well. Must a tribal government, for example, agree to obligations incurred through a supra-national entity?
That is, does a U.S. commitment to bring down carbon dioxide emissions bind the Navajo nation?