VFP Updates from COP26

November 03, 2021
VFP Updates from COP26

VFP UK member David Collins was on the ground in Glasgow, Scotland providing daily reports from the UN Climate Change Conference COP26.

Scroll down for daily reports and photos! 

Check out COP26.tv, a daily livestreamed news and information channel from Glasgow, Scotland, reporting from both inside and outside COP26.

November 9:

I am glad to say that almost all the active peace organisations now include the question of military emissions in their campaigns.   We [David Collins of VFP UK and a few others - ed.] have now leafleted many of the 1000’s of delegates for 5 days outside the COP – we are the only ones doing that this week. 

The opinion in meeting after meeting in the Peoples Summit Programme (alternative COP) this week is that that world leaders who are part of the UNFCCC Annex 1 (which are the top industrialized countries), have mostly now left Glasgow to their negotiators, who are cynically not going to implement any significant restructuring measures that will either achieve previous promises or those necessary to catch up. There are large numbers of delegates and sponsorship from those industries such as oil, extractive, oil etc. There is a big push by nuclear to greenwash their technology, and they even had 20 young people outfitted in advertising jackets marching in the huge demonstration earlier in the week. We have also spoken to delegates who are attending as observers who confirm their disappointment with progress so far.  However let us see what transpires by the end of the week.

My view it is time that the most polluting industries and the military should be forced to discuss how they intend to re-construct their activities/businesses, by abandoning certain activities (e.g. oil drilling) and how they plan to diversify rapidly to low carbon activities.  I think we now past the point where voluntary changes will do.  Of course in the case of the military a straight 50% budget cut would be the first step, with resources diverted to these changes. 


Quotes at COP26

Asad Rehman, executive director of War and Want and a spokesperson for the COP26 Coalition, said:

“Today, the people who have been locked out of this climate summit have had their voices heard – and those voices will be ringing in the ears of world leaders as we enter the second week of  negotiations. The climate crisis has resulted from our broken, unequal societies and economies. We must transform our global economies into ones that protect both people and our planet instead of profit for a few.”

Speaking at the rally, Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner, the Marshall Islands Climate Envoy to the United Nations, said:

“We need the biggest emitters to be held responsible. We need financing to implement the solutions we are currently developing ourselves through our National Adaptation Plan. We contribute 0.00005% of the world’s global emissions – we did nothing to contribute to this crisis, and we should not have to pay the consequences. We need to keep up the pressure that COP26 doesn’t allow offsets or endanger human rights and the rights of indigenous people.”

November 8:

We again leafleted the delegates coming into the COP finding the most response from West African communities such as Cameroon and also Kenya.

Today, I helped out at the live event entitled “Challenging the Military Carbon Footprint”.   The highlight was a presentation by Stuart Parkinson of Scientists for Global Responsibility – you can find really well researched information on his website about the UK military. 

November 7:

On November 7, David participated in the CCMP workshop, “U.S. Militarism, Space Tech, and the Climate Crisis – The Role of Demilitarization in Climate Justice” at the People’s Summit for Climate Justice

View an excerpt from David's talk:

As the UK hosts COP26 – the most important intergovernmental climate negotiations since the Paris Agreement – it is especially hard to understand why the government prioritises engaging in international arms races – in nuclear, cyber, robotic, AI, and space technologies – while funding for reducing UK carbon emissions and overseas aid is so compromised.

How prescient were the words of US President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell speech on 17th January 1961; “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” 

Watch the workshop recording here.

November 6:

We began the day very early arriving by 8am at the Conference Centre and leafleting all the delegates entering the COP with the banner and leaflet saying “War Causes Climate Change and Climate Change Causes War.  We were the only people out there so I think we made an impact.  The weather was atrocious, as predicted there were high winds and heavy rain, but we stayed there until the last delegate had arrived.

From there we visited the Green Zone which has a number of green demonstrations and technologies, open to the public.

Leaving there at about 1pm we joined a 3 mile march and rally in Glasgow as part of a "Global Day of Action for Climate Justice". Watch the short video here.

Reliable reports say that about 100,000 people attended to demand more action on the climate crisis.   I have never before felt such passion and power generated by a protest march.   Wave after wave of young and older people surged through the streets, in good humour and without any violent incidents.  The police, who had come from all parts of the UK, were hardly visible which is highly commendable; they trusted the organisers to keep everyone safe, again in high winds and driving rain, and they were not disappointed.   I truly think that the march was a seminal turning point for so many, who had thought that they were powerless.  Now they could see that there were thousands more of the same mind and together hope was generated.  My two short videos don’t give the slightest impression of the magnitude of the day, but I attach them anyway.  The press described the march as the biggest in the history of Glasgow.  They just kept on coming!

I will be speaking tomorrow on the VFP USA Zoom “US Militarism, Space Tech and the Climate Crisis”

 November 5:

Brad, our VFP member in Glasgow took part in a zoom conference on Armistice/Remembrance Day organised by ‘A World Beyond War’.  Here is a link to the event.

Today I joined up with 5 other friends from the Movement for the Abolition of War and set up leafleting in the nearly empty George Square in the centre of Glasgow.   However, during the afternoon a very large demonstration marched through Glasgow and gathered in the square, many thousands, mostly young people.   Activists from several other countries gave speeches about how climate change is already affecting their homelands.   They included including Vanessa Nakate from Uganda, who said: "Historically, Africa is responsible for only 3% of global emissions and yet Africans are suffering some of the most brutal impacts fueled by the climate crisis.  But while the global south is on the frontline of the climate crisis, they're not on the front pages of the world's newspapers.  There was also a very large group from Amazonia in full headdress who gave a very moving testament to their displacement from their lands and the savage extraction policies of President Bolsonaro.  Also speakers from Chile and Mexico.

Eventually Greta Thunberg arrived and said: "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.  We need immediate drastic annual emission cuts unlike anything the world has ever seen. The people in power can continue to live in their bubble filled with their fantasies, like eternal growth on a finite planet and technological solutions that will suddenly appear seemingly out of nowhere and will erase all of these crises just like that.  All this while the world is literally burning, on fire, and while the people living on the front lines are still bearing the brunt of the climate crisis.  She described the UN climate change summit as a "two-week long celebration of business as usual and blah, blah, blah" to "maintain business as usual" and "create loopholes to benefit themselves".  And added: "We know that our emperors are naked."

I met with a journalist from Denver who was covering the COP.   He had interviewed President Biden and also Donald Trump and was interested in how we viewed prospects for meaningful agreements on climate.  We were quite worried that the closely packed crowd of young people, hardly any of which were wearing face masks, might result in some of us contracting Covid 19.

From the demonstration we joined a Vigil at the Buchanan Steps and passed out leaflets to passing people as they left their work for the weekend.

Tomorrow we meet up at 7.30am and start to leaflet the delegates as they enter the Conference Centre for the morning sessions.  We have to travel in by overground train to Glasgow, then take a bus to the conference.   It will be an early start.

November 4: 

The highlight of my day was a joint series of speeches with Code Pink, Stop the War Coalition, Veterans for Peace and several other peace organisations.  The compere was Nancy Mancias of Code Pink who did a great job.  The venue was an iconic place in front of the Royal Glasgow Concert Hall alongside a statue of Donald Dewar who was the first “First Minister” of a devolved Scotland in 1999.  A good crowd turned up even though by 5pm it was dark and very cold!  I previewed some of my speech yesterday and I attach the final version in which I quote prescient warnings about the power of the military-industrial complex from your President Dwight  D. Eisenhower’s  farewell speech in 1961. 

Our Prime Minister has now left the COP and is concentrating on defending his party against allegations of corruption.  Meanwhile some good news is that more than 40 countries have agreed to phase out their coal fired power stations but these did not include Australia, China, India or the US.  UK does quite well, having already reduced coal stations to a very minor part of the mix.

On the streets I found the activities of the women of Extinction Rebellion very impressive, with groups marching in ranks, slowly and in silence, looking always to the ground, dressed sometimes in identical long, striking sinister, almost Victorian, red dresses or in another case dressed as stone age folk in hessian and chalk whitened faces.  Their silence and dignity has a powerful impact on the public.

There have been many complaints about the tough uncompromising security in Glasgow which has led to long queues, frustration and the feeling that the peoples voices, especially younger folk, have been excluded from the debates in the Conference.  It is hard to beautify a city so far north in November though; it's cold and frosty and by Saturday the rain is forecast.

Tomorrow more people are arriving from friends from the Movement for the Abolition of War, I am a member of that organisation as well as VfP, and because of the lack of Scottish members of VfP, I am joining with them, always in VfP clothing, to jointly start leafleting, showing banners and flags in the streets.  Our first job tomorrow is to set up in George Square which is actually the centre of Glasgow, full of imperial statues, and then to join a vigil of many organisations back in Buchanan Street.

Graphic - Key Changes in Government Spending

November 3:

Boris Johnson at the COP26 is now announcing that he is “cautiously optimistic” about achieving below 1.5C global temperatures.  At the same time his own government has announced spending changes for the next 5 years which are that the UK government will spend over seven times as much on the military as on reducing national carbon emissions. It also reveals the impact of the UK’s changing foreign policy priorities, with any ‘savings’ from the 30% cut in overseas aid more than swallowed up by large increases in military spending.  This is a policy of reinforcing the dominance of military solutions to world problems that has proved catastrophic is to be continued and even reinforced.  

My day was spent in more preparations for the arrival of three more people from The `Movement for the Abolition of War’. We are combining our efforts for when we start serious lobbing of the 1,000’s of delegates arriving at the COP26 venue.  Meanwhile I have been preparing to speak at an anti-war rally  tomorrow afternoon which includes several other speakers – the venue is the centre of Glasgow at the Buchanan Steps in front of the Royal Concert Hall 

This is part of the speech in which I refer to the Arms “Fair” in London this September.

“Given that it was exactly one month after President Ashraf Ghani fled Afghanistan, following 21 years of George Bush’s/Tony Blair’s “War on Terror”, the professional Head of the British Army, General Carlton - Smith, with responsibility for developing and generating military capability would appear to be a man well worth listening to at the International Arms Fair (DSEI) held in London this September, however the armourers and arms dealers of the world were not to hear any regrets nor lessons to be learned from the multiple human catastrophes in Afghanistan, or the wars in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya. Not even a word on the link between war and global warming, the vital role of peacekeeping at the United Nations, serious diplomacy to avoid war nor the devastating effects of war on civilians – the “collateral damage” as these war crimes are described. No call even to mourn “the children of war who have experienced more trauma — physical and emotional — than the medical professionals who care for them have ever seen: the shredded remains of their mum or dad, blown apart by bombs……”   The compounded experiences of many Syrian children caught up in the violence has given rise to a new medical condition called Human Devastation Syndrome which describes the level of PTSD severity suffered by the children of Syria and other states such as Iraq and Afghanistan.”

More tomorrow!

November 2: 

I am here in Glasgow, it’s been sunny, which is a minor miracle and I am staying with a very nice generous family who have offered to let delegates stay with them during COP26.

Our Prime Minister made a speech yesterday full of empty promises as the reality is that he has recently increased the military budget to the highest percentage of the budget since the Korean war and all at the expense of climate change and development aid money which have both been cut.  He often tries to mimic phrases used by Winston Churchill which would no doubt make the latter turn in his grave.

The SECC which is the venue by the river Clyde of COP26 has been completely surrounded by security fences including 3 hotels which are close by.  Nobody who has not been accredited  to the Blue Zone at the conference can gain entrance, which means that those in organisations such as VfP do not get in.  All the police today were at least dressed as local, but I will listen out for any American voices just in case there may be reinforcements from over your way...

Today I had a close look at where we could set up our stand, and as we did in Madrid in 2019, the best place is to catch the delegates with information is as they arrive and leave. 

The Green Zone at COP26 is for the public, and to reach it, you get a special bus which is authorised to penetrate the police cordon.  You then get out and take a 15 minutes hike to a venue the other side of the river from the SECC where you can see interesting developments in green energy, transport and many individual scientific presentations and films.   You cannot even walk to the side of river to look at the SECC.  

My impression of all this is that it is rather sad that the public do not get a chance to talk directly to the people making world changing decisions.  But never mind, they will hear from us anyway, we have a job to do and I will report tomorrow again.

Today there was a huge protest outside SECC about ejecting the president of Bangladesh – presumably because she was in the conference wearing ear plugs!

I attach one shot of the River Clyde and another of the delegate exit to the COP showing the security fences. Today there was a huge protest outside SECC about ejecting the president of Bangladesh – presumably because she was in the conference wearing ear plugs!


Photos (Click to Enlarge)

Photo 1: The River Clyde - COP26, November 2, 2021  Photo credit: David Collins
Photo 2: COP26 Security Fence, November 2, 2021  Photo credit: David Collins
Photo 3: David Collins giving a speech at the Buchanan Steps
Photo 4: "Global Day of Action for Climate Justice" march and rally in Glasgow  Photo credit: David Collins

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