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Environmentalists stage large protests in Glasgow, demanding more from COP26

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Thousands of protesters have come out today in Glasgow, near the site of the U.N. climate summit. The demonstrators contend that the world's political leaders are moving too slowly to reduce carbon emissions and raising the risk of climate catastrophe in the decades ahead.

We're joined now by NPR's Frank Langfitt in Glasgow. Frank, thanks so much for being with us.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Great to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: Well, we hear the crowd behind you. What's the scene like?

LANGFITT: (Laughter) You certainly can. It's thousands of people marching through the streets of Glasgow. You can hear the helicopter overhead. And it's kind of a cornucopia of different groups. You have farmers, trade unionists, climate activists, even Scottish independence advocates - a wide-ranging coalition of people coming together in what they consider a common cause. And you see people carrying - like, I've seen an inflatable dinosaur. I've seen people carrying plants. And they're on their way to the center of the city to send a message to the people - the leaders inside the climate summit that they're unhappy with what they're hearing so far.

SIMON: And what do you hear from protesters with whom you've spoken?

LANGFITT: Yeah, I think what you're seeing is they're looking for something much more specific from this climate summit. I was talking to an activist from Extinction Rebellion. It's a global climate change group from a town here in England. His name is Alex Radice. He's an IT worker. And he says, you know, leaders are pledging action, but they're providing very few details on they would - actually how they would get emissions down. This is what he said.

ALEX RADICE: I want them to take away the urgency of the issue because I don't think this COP has come up with anywhere near the firm plans that we need. We're seeing vague intentions and the beginning of plans. But we need firm plans.

SIMON: Now, Frank, there's the second demonstration in Glasgow in as many days. There was a protest yesterday aimed at young persons, who have, in many ways, been the real drivers of the climate movement. What did you hear there?

LANGFITT: What you hear there - and it was thousands of people - again, a feeling that the process inside the meeting simply isn't working from their point of view. Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who's largely been the face of the youth movement on this issue, she had a pretty tough verdict on the meeting so far. This is what she told the crowds.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GRETA THUNBERG: It is not a secret that COP26 is a failure. It should be obvious that we cannot solve a crisis with the same methods that got us into it in the first place.

SIMON: Now, perhaps we should point out, the conference is only half done.

LANGFITT: It is, absolutely. We still have another seven days. I think that what you hear from particularly the younger people, like Thunberg, is they want to see drastic steps that they say are needed to slow down the rise in temperatures - things like halting investment in fossil fuels. And what you hear inside the fences at the COP summit is leaders acknowledging the situation is dire. But they point out that, say, you know, renewable energy sources, like wind and solar - they can't yet fill the gap. So there's this, you know, real difference of opinion into sort of how to approach this.

SIMON: And there were a number of other voices from other parts of the world, too, right?

LANGFITT: Yeah, there were. I mean, what's really interesting yesterday, Scott, is you saw a lot of young people from the global south - Brazil, Uganda, places like that. And these are poor developing nations, who - which have contributed very little to carbon emissions. And they're bearing the brunt of climate change.

And Evelyn Acham - she's a climate activist from Uganda - this is what she had to say.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

EVELYN ACHAM: We emit very little CO2 - very little CO2 emissions. But we are suffering some of the worst impacts. People are dying from floods, disasters like droughts that are drying up people's crops, people's food.

LANGFITT: And I think we'll hear more of that from the streets here in the next few days.

SIMON: NPR's Frank Langfitt on the scene, obviously, in Glasgow. Frank, thanks so much for being with us.

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