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Mass protests are expected at the climate summit over the next 2 days


One of the themes for the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, is youth and public empowerment.


Yes. And the youth and the public will demonstrate today outside of the COP26 conference. They're going to demand that the world move much faster to cut carbon emissions. Mitzi Jonelle Tan is a 24-year-old climate activist from the Philippines. Here's what she said.

MITZI JONELLE TAN: A lot of people ask me, what are my hopes for COP? And honestly, I don't have any hopes. I have expectations and I have demands, because we are tired of hoping. We don't need hope. We need action.

INSKEEP: NPR's Frank Langfitt has been covering the climate summit. Hey there, Frank.


INSKEEP: What form might these demonstrations assume?

LANGFITT: Yeah. What's going to happen is they're going to start off in a park on both days and march through the city. And organizers, particularly tomorrow, are expecting as many as 100,000 people. We'll have to see if COVID keeps some people away. Here in the United Kingdom, we've been averaging about 130 deaths a day from COVID.

INSKEEP: You know, I've been able to see the inside of this conference because some parts of it have been on, you know, livestreams and that sort of thing. How does it feel when you're there? And how does it feel when you're just outside?

LANGFITT: It's very, very interesting. There's this divide between what's inside the fence and outside the fence. Inside, you have established leaders who are agreeing with the protesters that things have to go very quickly but also finding it very challenging given how reliant the economy is on fossil fuels. And what you see outside are people like Mitzi who are saying, you're not going fast enough at all. Our generation is going to bear the brunt of it. In her case, she's already felt it. Here's Mitzi Tan again.

TAN: I woke up in the middle of the night having to scoop out floodwater from my room. There is always this fear that the next typhoon will wash our house away. And no one should ever have to feel that fear. My mom didn't have that fear when she was growing up. I don't want my kids to have that fear when growing up.

INSKEEP: You know, let's remember, she's from the Philippines, which we can describe as a developing nation. Isn't there a lot of tension here between developing and developed nations?

LANGFITT: There really is. And this has been fascinating to see it play out in the conference and also out on the streets. You know, basically, the argument is the industrialized countries, like the United States, the United Kingdom, they led the industrial revolution. They benefited enormously economically. Glasgow is a great example, Steve. You had Scottish coal mines powering heavy industry, shipbuilding, locomotive constructions. This is back in the 19th century. By the late 1870's, Glasgow one of the richest cities in all of Europe, all that CO2 that was poured into the air and all of it afterwards, particularly from these big - you know, big economies, they've benefited, you know, the - what we call the north. But when you look at what's happening in places like the Philippines, the Caribbean nations, the Maldives, they never had an industrial revolution. They're the ones at such great risk because of stronger storms and also rising water. And people from the developed nations feel this is deeply unfair.

INSKEEP: Does that drive this difference in conversations that you notice between people inside and outside the conference?

LANGFITT: I think you certainly - it feels more urgent. I think, for people from the developing world, absolutely. And one thing we've seen, as you know, these leaders inside, they acknowledge the crisis. But they say they cannot solve it by just closing the world's coal mines and oil wells because renewable energy can't fill that gap. On the other side of the fence, these activists are saying, this is existential. We need it done now. This is Dominika Lasota. She's 19 and from Poland.

DOMINIKA LASOTA: I feel this powerlessness and this anger and this sadness that there's still such a detachment of those in power from the reality, from the communities, from the ecosystems.

LANGFITT: And we'll be hearing a lot more of that from the streets of Glasgow in the next couple of days, Steve.

INSKEEP: NPR's Frank Langfitt covering the UN climate conference. Frank, thanks.

LANGFITT: Happy to do it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Frank Langfitt
Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.
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