Around 20,000 people marched through central London on Saturday to protest against world leaders' climate inaction at the Cop26 conference.
The protest was one of over 250 across the world called by the Cop26 Coalition.
The biggest protest on the day was in Glasgow. But scores of others took place across Britain. The London march brought together climate change campaigners, trade unionists, indigenous groups, socialists and many others.
There were a few Extinction Rebellion groups, banners from some of the NGO campaigns that backed the protest and a couple of Labour Party branches. There was a group of Sudanese activists protesting against the military coup as well as calling for climate measures.
But many people—not members of any group or party—came as individuals or with their friends or family.
They were horrified by the threat of environmental destruction and desperate to see some effective climate action.
PCS union member Diane told Socialist Worker, “We can't stay in our living rooms anymore and ignore climate change.
“We hear a lot of talk but no action. We need a clear plan and strategy.”
She added, “The trade unions know social justice and environmental issues are workers’ issues—they affect everyone.
“It’s important for people to be heard and come together. Workers always lead change, not the world leaders.”
Unite activist Donovan agreed, he said, “Unite is one of the biggest unions. We have a platform to fight for green jobs.
“Unions can bring awareness to climate change on a large scale, not just global issues but locally as well."
The protesters marched two miles from the Bank of England to Trafalgar Square.
Placards and banners included, “It’s not emission impossible,” and “Workers of the world unite—system change not climate change.”
Protesters Sumayyah and Tom from London were on the protest to demand an end to fossil fuel extraction.
Sumayyah told Socialist Worker, “We need to make sure companies don't get away with half of what they are already doing.
“We need to regulate those corporations and put the planet before profit.”
Tom said, “There have been 25 previous Cop climate summits and there’s been no shift to net zero, which is just a plaster anyway.
“We need to stop extracting fossil fuels and start building renewables.”
Protester Stuart told Socialist Worker, “We live in a competitive society which is driving us to collapse and to stop the climate crisis, we need socialism.
“Fundamentally we need to stop our dependency on fossil fuels. It would be difficult, but it is not impossible.
“We would live a cleaner lifestyle, people would be happier, and we'd have a chance to stop climate change.”
At Trafalgar Square, speakers included UCU union general secretary Jo Grady. She told the crowd, “The climate crisis is overwhelmingly being caused by the global north, but it's the global south that will suffer the most.”
A Palestinian activist from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign addressed the crowd saying, “Climate justice is not just about the climate, Palestinians know this all too well.
“Living under and resisting occupation, settler colonialism and apartheid, struggling to control our land and resources, makes us one of the most vulnerable communities to the climate crisis.
“To Palestinians, climate change isn't just an environmental issue, it’s a political issue.”
It is very welcome that the climate movement is back on the streets. That is the positive legacy of Cop26—that it has reignited protests.
Now the movement has to continue and be more militant in confronting the system that produces climate change.
Thousands join marches across Britain
Thousands of climate activists across Britain joined the day of action.
Local Cop26 coalitions and hubs, climate activists, anti-racists and left wing groups joined rallies and protests to demand climate justice.
In Bristol a Sudanese protest joined the climate march with anti-capitalist politics at the centre of speeches. Around 7,000 protesters chanted “Kill the Tories, not the bees”.
Alex from Sheffield reported that up to 4,000 people joined a huge march to the town hall.
“There was a really positive mindset on the demonstration. It was a fantastic day,” he told Socialist Worker. Student societies, medical groups, XR activists, school student strikers and union groups joined the day, as well as a student feeder march of around 1,000.
“We’re angry about the unwillingness of leaders to act despite clear evidence that the climate is being adversely affected by corporations destroying the world.
“The pressure has to come from below.”
Alex added, “Protesting means world leaders have extra pressure to deliver.
“That won’t happen by politely asking them when they’re happy on their private islands far from the poverty and chaos caused by climate change.”
Alex thinks that after Cop26 the main challenge will be “maintaining intensity and mass pressure and the numbers involved in the campaigns locally and globally”.
Soph is a student in Manchester where some 1,500 people marched alongside a feeder trade union bloc of 500. She told Socialist Worker, “It was great to have such a big turnout with so many groups, such as Stand Up To Racism and Extinction Rebellion (XR).
“Everybody is now noticing how much is going wrong, and how little the people in charge are doing about it.
“And it’s great to see not just one group of students, but a wide range of people. There were kids with homemade signs and people from every generation.”
In Oxford, several thousand people marched and rallied. Union delegations and banners from the Unison NUJ, NEU and UCU unions were on the march.
Marchers chanted, “Hey hey ho ho, climate change has got to go”, “What do we want? Climate action. When do we want it? Now.”
Around 3,000 people marched in Liverpool. The rally heard statements about produce coming through the Liverpool ports, sent from activists in North Carolina, Mozambique and from Creuza, a female indigenous leader from the Kraho people of Brazil.
Up to 1,000 young and older activists demanded climate action in Norwich.
A statement was read from Amazonian indigenous people in Brazil, and Unite, RMT, trades council, NEU and Unison banners joined XR drummers and Red Rebels.
The Norfolk Cop26 Coalition has already been renamed the Norfolk Climate Justice Coalition to continue fighting for the planet.
A lively demonstration in Lowestoft brought up to 100 people onto the street. Called by Waveney & East Coast Cop26 Coalition hub, Unite union activists brought their banner and North East Suffolk District NEU were also represented.
Members of the Green Party, Labour Party and Socialist Workers Party were joined by activists from various groups and campaigns including Extinction Rebellion, Green New Deal, the Pensioners' Association and individuals who responded to the call.
Around 500 people joined the action in York chanting “Whose streets? Our streets” as they marched through the city centre. Placards read “Cop26—no more blah blah”, “There’s no planet B” and “Socialism or extinction”.
There were over 600 in Weymouth, Dorset, plus a smaller demonstration in Dorchester.
Around 400 demonstrated in Reading.
Around 150 people rallied in Huddersfield on a day that began with a Save the Trees March against Kirklees council's plan to chop down 126 mature trees for a road "improvement" scheme.
Some 400 protested in Swansea. In Cardiff anti-racist banners and Palestinian flags were on the march alongside placards demanding climate action.
In Brighton over 1,000 marched from the Level alongside XR’s Lightship Greta boat prop and samba band to a rally. Speakers included XR, Brighton trades council and local Green Party politicians.
Students attended alongside families with many supporting the slogan, “System change not climate change.”
Elsewhere over 1,000 protested in Leeds, as well as some 1,000 in Plymouth. In Bournemouth, around 250 people protested, and 300 joined the action in Derby, with 300 in Chesterfield and 400 in Portsmouth.
There were 2,000 in Birmingham and 1,000 in Nottingham.
Soph said that after Cop26 activists have to fight for change on a national and local scale. “It’s not just about climate change but linking different areas together—climate refugees and green jobs as we move away from fossil fuels.
“It’s becoming more and more obvious that capitalism creates crises. We won’t be able to get out of this catastrophe without abandoning the system because capitalism is so rooted in the exploitation of the planet and people.
“It shouldn’t be radical to want to stop the planet being destroyed.”
Thanks to everyone who sent reports