Strikes, wire globes, climate rebels and Greta Thunberg are all coming to Glasgow for the Cop26 climate conference.
The most exciting activity—and the most meaningful discussions—will not be found within the heavily fortified walls of the conference but at the protests against it.
The goal of the mobilisations is to show that ordinary people will not stand by as the bosses and world leaders destroy the planet.
Activists have been preparing for some time—and marches and protests aren’t the only things they have planned. There should be some direct action.
And, from 7 November activists will hold a People’s Summit for Climate Justice.
That will be an opportunity to discuss where next for the movement and will feature speakers from across the globe.
Cop26 is an opportunity for the climate movement to reappear as the force that can challenge those at the top who are killing the environment—and to confront their system too.
Extinction Rebellion (XR) activist Chia says protests at Cop26 can provide hope that climate breakdown can be averted.
“There’s a lot of climate anxiety and grief going on” she told Socialist Worker. “I’m in my 20s, and I’m starting to ask myself whether I’ll be able to have my own family.
“For me, the protests can be an antidote to this. I’m still hopeful, and I use that hope to keep going.”
Chia explained the kind of action XR would be taking while Cop26 is in progress.
“We’ve got a lot of different actions prepared, but of course, I can’t go into too much detail about them.”
“There will be different themes—a big one will be on ‘greenwashing’.
“We need to say that companies such as SSE, which is attending Cop, are trying to make out they are green. But that will never be possible for a fossil fuel company.”
Chia added that direct action must be a vital part of Cop26 protests.
“As a member of XR, I’m passionate about non-violent direct action. People don’t have their voices heard politically, and so, of course, you look for a more radical alternative and direct action can be a way of making those in power listen.
“But I also think that for direct action to be effective, you have to involve as many people as possible.
Chia is Outreach Link for XR Glasgow, which means that she’ll be in charge of street stalls so the group can have conversations with as many residents as possible.
“I think we really need to spread awareness. We need to say to people that some parts of Glasgow will be underwater in the future.
“We’ve built a great coalition of activists and supporters around us for Cop26 but for the coming struggles we need so many more.”
Artist Arnd Drossel from Germany has walked over 1,000 miles in a wire globe to raise awareness about climate change—now he’s heading to Glasgow.
“Years ago I realised that I needed to do more to fight the climate crisis” Arnd told Socialist Worker.
“Where I live millions of trees are dying, and there were floods that killed almost 200 people in Germany this year.”
“I’ve walked through some of the towns that were destroyed and many houses were broken away.
“Everywhere, I talk to people and feel connected to them. They have the same worries in Germany, England and Ireland about the climate.
“And of course I might get some funny looks but you have to do something.”
“In two weeks I’ll be in Glasgow for Cop26 after taking the ferry from Belfast.
“The conference is, I think, one of the most important events.”
“I’m looking forward to talking to people from all over the world about the project and being part of the protests.
“People might be scared about the climate crisis but the hope that we can do something is like nothing else.”
Pinar Aksu is an anti-racist campaigner in Glasgow who is part of organising an anti-racism bloc on the mobilisations on 6 November.
She told Socialist Worker that anti-racism must be an essential part of the protests.
“Those in the Global South are already suffering the impact of climate change, and it will only get worse if we do not act,” she said.
“We are already seeing that climate change is causing huge loss of land due to rising sea levels, and parts of the world are becoming inhabitable. The crisis is creating millions of climate refugees.”
Pinar added that anti-racists should rage against the racist policies of the world leaders attending the conference.
“The same world leaders inside the conference that are destroying the planet are also putting up border walls that cause the death of so many migrants.
“Interlinking every struggle will be important, and we need to loudly say there will be no climate justice without social justice.”
Stuart from Glasgow Trades Council says that as soon as world leaders enter the city, they will be confronted with banners of resistance.
“On the first day of Cop26 we are organising a banner welcome and asking people from across the country to either take photos or physically bring their union banners,” he told Socialist Worker.
“We’ve had to think creatively about how we get the word out to people across the city.
“We’ve also had to argue that more trade unions get involved.”
Movement Assemblies will be a place where activists can decide where next for the protests. Stuart said this is important.
“We need to react to what’s going on inside the conference,” he said. “We need to be able to adapt what we do and be able to gauge the mood of both activists and the public.”
Along with protests, a wave of industrial action at the time of Cop26 is set to go ahead.
Scotrail workers in the RMT union have organised strikes from 1-12 November for pay justice and equality.
Up to a thousand Glasgow city council workers—cleaners and school cooks and janitors, in the GMB union have called strikes throughout Cop26. They could be joined by up to 800 Unite union members the following week, who have already pledged that they will not cross GMB picket lines.
Strikes are important to embarrass the government
Stuart said mobilisations at Cop26 must link up with strikes. He said, “We are encouraging trade unionists to join the picket lines, but also for activists to take climate banners down to make links.”
For Stuart arguments about a “just transition” for workers—protecting and creating new jobs away from polluting industries—will be essential at the Cop26 mobilisations.
“I think we have to go even further than talking about a just transition, we need a just transformation now,” he said.
“There’s this idea that the oil and gas industry is the only thing that needs to change, but we must go further. We need reskilling across many different industries now.
“The government has put very little effort into jobs. All this stagnation is happening because leaders are wilfully blind.
“They will sit in their conference and then do nothing.”
“These protests need to be as big as possible, and strikes are important too, to embarrass the government.
“We need to be seen.”
Socialists want to take the protests at Cop26 to their most radical conclusions.
Ruby Hirsch has been part of organising mobilisations. She told Socialist Worker that socialist demands and arguments have to be inserted into everything that goes on at Cop.
“We’re going to meet so many people that agree with us that Cop26 won’t do anything. Our input is to say we need system change not climate change.
“Not only that, we can offer a strategy about how we get there. We need to say that workers have the power to change the system.”
“The potential of the school strikes in 2019 was massive. A climate strike that involves workers has the potential to grind the system that is destroying the planet to a halt.”
Ruby pointed to what makes socialists different from the NGOs and pressure groups present at the protests.
“We aren’t protesting to lobby those inside the conference. Instead, we focus on the struggles from below.
“And it’s also vital that we link different struggles together. Mobilisation should not just be about single issues. The same exploitative system has led to racism and Tory cuts.”
Glasgow has had a tidy up ahead of the conference. But as Ruby says, it’s all just for show.
“The council has employed workers to fill in potholes and paint railings that haven’t been done for years.”
“They’re trying to create a clean image while cutting services and closing down leisure spaces for people. Libraries and youth services have been closed down, and all but one of the glasshouses and botanical gardens have been shut or left in disrepair.
“The council workers’ strikes show just how bad these cuts have got. I hope the strikes embarrass and shame Glasgow City Council.”
Workers can have a real say in the way their lives are run
One of the most important arguments that socialists should take to Cop26 is that ordinary people should get a say in how things are run
“Talking about what real democracy could look like will be important at the protests” said Ruby.
“Up to 90 percent of delegates to the conference will be representatives of corporations—how is that democratic?”
“Ordinary people will be left out of decision making, and we need to say workers can have a real say in the way their lives are run.
Those who work in the oil and gas industry probably want to do jobs that benefit people.
“Taking these ideas to the picket lines is vital. We are prepared to make these links even if union bureaucrats won’t.”
Strikes will be one part of the disruption at Cop26, but socialists must organise and take part in direct action at every opportunity.
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