2007 - 2021

COP 26 – Leadership from Below

“We no longer find it reasonable to put our faith elsewhere. There is no one coming.”
– Govan Free State

COP 26 arrives in Glasgow with a world teetering towards irretrievable and runaway climate change and omnicide. The earths carbon dioxide level is at a 4.5 million year high. The absence of political leadership is a yawning chasm, an ever-present certainty in a world characterised by radical uncertainty. COP is an exercise contaminated by corporate capture, political opportunism and corruption. But if the absence of leadership at this existential moment for humanity haunts Glasgow, there is inspiration from below. There is light in the darkness. The city will be littered with creative protest, direct action and mass rallies. Tens of thousands will march from Kelvingrove Park to Glasgow Green as part of the COP26 Coalition’s Global Day of Action for Climate Justice on 6 November. Over 100 demonstrations will happen simultaneously worldwide, from Sierra Leone to Australia, Portugal to Sweden. An estimated half a million activists will take to the streets on the middle weekend of the UN Climate Talks – to demand governments commit to cutting emissions and implementing globally just solutions which limit global temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees. The COP26 Coalition marches to demand:

  • Limiting global temperature rise to no more than 1.5 °C
  • ‘Real Zero’, not ‘net zero’ carbon emissions
  • A commitment to no new fossil fuel investments or infrastructure worldwide
  • No to carbon markets and risky and unproven technological developments like carbon capture and storage as proposed ‘solutions’ to the climate crisis
  • A worker-led just transition away from the fossil fuel industry, and the creation of good unionised green jobs
  • Fair share of effort from all rich countries
  • Cancel the debt of the Global South by all creditors alongside reparations and grant-based climate finance for damages already caused by climate change.

Activists in Glasgow will march from Kelvingrove Park to Glasgow Green, where they will rally and hear from speakers like Uganda’s Vanessa Nakate and Sweden’s Greta Thunberg. The rally will be hosted by Glasgow’s own Darren McGarvey and Mitzi Jonelle Tan from the Philippines. People will march and people will protest willing the political leadership to change course. Glasgow will become a microcosm of Priti Patel’s surveillance state. The relationship between the corporate the political and the public interest is laid bare like never before.  Everything is clear. The government tells you to rinse your dishes. The media tells you there’s no difference between you and Jo Biden or Xi Jinping. But if there’s anything that Glasgow and Scotland know this is about power, and the lack of it.

Everywhere there is greenwashing and disinformation. Everywhere there is denial and a sort of imbecile media commentary that rolls on and on in mundane delirium. But everywhere there is also resistance. In inverse proportion to the cynicism and corruption of the political elite there is a groundswell of imagination and hope. Whether you find that futile or inspiring we’ll be reporting from the city to the world over the coming weeks. We’ll also be profiling some of the voices that can’t be present, the people and communities that are excluded and unheard people from the global south for whom climate change, rising sea level, biodiversity loss, famine and drought and extreme weather has been a terrifying reality not an abstract concept.

Image credit: this is an installation by Alison Smith (@alisonsmithart) ‘Climate canopy’ from the  #COP26 ‘blue zone’, displaying an illuminated suspended version of the warming stripes.

Comments (20)

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  1. Mark Bevis says:

    The corporations are now trying to normalise collapse and still make a profit.

    Today on Planet Rock I heard an advert for an airline, persuading people to fly from the UK to the USA. Incredibly in it’s dribble about flying to California it said “subject to delays because of blackouts” (!)

    That’s similar to other adds I’ve heard recently for a cancer charity, where they openly say 1 in 2 will get cancer.

    Systems are go for corporate capture of collapse, COPOUT26 being a prime example. There is/was talk of the Chinese not coming, which would be a blessing, now the UK’s resident German benefit tourist has cancelled too. Maybe more good news will occur before the event?

    1. Mons Meg says:

      Indeed, the experience of catastrophe has itself become commodified. That’s what Mike’s selling here: the spectacle of a city littered with creative protest, direct action and mass rallies; tens of thousands marching from Kelvingrove Park to Glasgow Green; over 100 demonstrations happening simultaneously worldwide, from Sierra Leone to Australia, Portugal to Sweden.

      The condition of ‘activism’ is the historical moment at which the commodity completes its colonisation of social life; it’s the zenith of capitalism.

      1. You’re buying I’m not selling

      2. Wul says:

        “Indeed, the experience of catastrophe has itself become commodified. That’s what Mike’s selling here: the spectacle of a city littered with creative protest, direct action and mass rallies; tens of thousands marching from Kelvingrove Park to Glasgow Green; over 100 demonstrations happening simultaneously worldwide, from Sierra Leone to Australia, Portugal to Sweden.

        The condition of ‘activism’ is the historical moment at which the commodity completes its colonisation of social life; it’s the zenith of capitalism.”

        Why not just be honest and say: “I’m too old for this to affect me, so I don’t care” ? Save time and be more congruent. (Less boring for the rest of us too)

        1. Mons Meg says:

          Because that wouldn’t be true, Wul. (Although the arrival of the global circus in Glasgow does affect me only minimally doun-hame.)

          1. Wul says:

            My apologies if I’ve misjudged you.

          2. Mons Meg says:

            Nae bother, Wul.

  2. Mons Meg says:

    Why are ‘activists’ even making themselves complicit in the political spectacle?

    1. Alistair Taylor says:

      Aye, exactly, Mons Meg!
      Ah’m no going, cos the trains are oan strike, and the hitching is shite.
      Might just hole up in the Deeside cottage
      See ya

      1. Mons Meg says:

        Good on you, Alistair! The man of survival is the man of refusal. The primary means of counteracting the spectacle is to refuse it. As Malcolm X (I think it was) said: what really worries the establishment is when we don’t take to the streets. Imagine all those cops and stewards and commentators and protesters and other actors having been assembled at great environmental cost to play Glasgow and then having nothing to do, no audience to play to! The spectacle would close after the first night.

        1. Alistair Taylor says:

          But, haud oan, the trains are a go! Tho’ it’s cheaper tae travel doon fae Inverness on yon Mega bus.
          Hitching used tae be the game in the 70’s, when ah wis a lad, bit naebiddy wants tae know ye now. Covid or no.
          In my opinion, the rich need to curtail their lifestyles, and the wealth needs to be distributed more equitably.
          Balmoral could house a fair few poor people. Or is my thinking too simplistic?
          I have trouble joining the dots sometimes, an’ it probably winnae get easier wi’ the passing years.
          Still, maybe the enjoyment is in the struggle.

          1. Mons Meg says:

            ‘…the rich need to curtail their lifestyles, and the wealth needs to be distributed more equitably.’

            Indeed, but the way things seem to be shaping up is that our current wasteful lifestyles will become exclusive once again. The problem of climate change is being spun as a problem of mass overconsumption. Once the consumption of prestige consumables becomes exclusive again – that is, affordable only by the few in and of the developed world – then the problem will be solved.

            Beyond the global spectacle and our ritual participation in it as players and protestors, COP26 is about trade in a new commodity. According to Berenberg, the German bank, the market for carbon offsets is expected to reach $200 billion by 2050, making it a business with massive potential. That’s why the world and its poodle is flying into Glasgow to perform the circus over the next few weeks.

        2. Dougie Harrison says:

          I fear if you dinnae go, it’ll be better for the rest of us.

          1. Dougie Harrison says:

            Sorry Alistair, my wee squib appeared in no quite the right place. It was aimed at the exploding cannon.

          2. Mons Meg says:

            Gin naeb’dy went, Dougie, it wad be even mair pouerfou.

  3. Squigglypen says:

    A bit like naebody turning up tae see one o’ the royals driving past in their limos an’ naebody there tae wave tae them wi their wee union flag….they become irrelevant…(that’s when they’re no hiding in their bolt holt in Balmoral/Scotland…)
    Where else could you find a country hosting an event such as this and not at the table…..ye couldnae make it up…so ignore it….

    1. Mons Meg says:

      But it’s COP (under the Presidency of the UK) that’s hosting its 26th summit in Glasgow, not Scotland.

      Scotland isn’t even a Party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Why on earth should it be ‘at the table’?

      It’s a shame that the significance of such a global spectacle should be reduced to a mere exercise in the grudge and grievance politics of petty nationalism.

  4. Robbie says:

    So Alistair ,maybe the train workers should jist hole up in their cottages wherever they are ,bloody activists eh Mons.

    1. Mons Meg says:

      No, no, Robbie. The RMT is right to exploit the strengthening of its hand by the arrival of the COP circus in town to get the best deal it can for its members; indeed, it’s played a blinder. The striking workers aren’t ‘activists’ trying to change the world; they’re just everyday working men and women trying to improve the terms and conditions of their employment.

      And that’s whence the revolution will come when it comes: from the everyday rather than the spectacular.

      As an antidote to the soap opera of COP 26, have a read of The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord and The Revolution of Everyday Life by Raoul Vaneigem. You might find it liberating.

    2. Alistair Taylor says:

      Aye, Robbie, revolution is what we need.
      Pick yer battles.

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