Thunberg leads climate protests in Italy ahead of COP26

Greta Thunberg led a ‘Fridays for Future’ march in Milan after calling for swift change at the Youth4Climate conference.

Greta Thunberg leads a 'Fridays for Future' demonstration in Milan, Italy. [Antonio Calanni/AP Photo]

Hundreds of young people led by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg have marched in the Italian city of Milan to demand swift climate action, weeks before the crucial United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) slated to be held in Glasgow.

The rally took place on Friday as a continuation of the “Fridays for Future” movement that had brought students to the streets in cities across the globe two years ago, before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Hope doesn’t come from politicians’ blah, blah, blah,” Thunberg said as she led the rally in Milan, accompanied by Ugandan climate justice activist Vanessa Nakate.

“Hope doesn’t come from inaction and empty promises that everything will be alright, they say trust us we are doing everything we can, that is not hope, hope is this, hope is us, the people, hope is when people gather to make change.”

The 18-year-old climate activist, who is seen as a possible Nobel Peace Prize winner on October 8, was in Milan as part of the official UN gathering for the youth version of the COP26, which is expected to see the participation of about 400 people.

The three-day Youth4Climate conference has drawn criticism from the young delegates, who accused organisers of not being interested in their input for a document that will be sent to this year’s UN climate conference.

Thunberg slammed climate ministers on the first day of the youth climate summit on Tuesday, saying that “they are pretending that they have solutions to the climate crisis and that they are taking sufficient action, but we see through their lies”.

“Build back better, blah, blah, blah. Green economy, blah, blah, blah. Net-zero by 2050, blah, blah, blah. Climate-neutral, blah, blah, blah. This is all we hear from our so-called leaders. Words, words that sound great but so far has led to no action,” she said.

Since her speech, “blah, blah, blah” has become a rallying cry for climate justice activists on social media.

Protesters in Milan said they wanted to see change at the COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland that will kick off on October 31.

“They are extremely frustrated, angry and impatient for change,” Adam Raney, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Milan, said.

“They are calling for a greater commitment of spending by rich countries for poor countries to equal the playing field in this fight against climate change.”

Thunberg on Thursday met Italy’s prime minister and current president of the G20, Mario Draghi, in a final push to get world leaders to make commitments before the climate summit.

The activists’ proposals included demands for a transparent climate finance system and sustainable and responsible tourism, as well as the total phasing out of the fossil fuel industry by 2030.

Their proposals will be vetted by climate and energy ministers’ pre-COP26 gathering in the next few days before the Glasgow conference.

Draghi assured them their demands would not go unheard. “You are right to demand accountability and change … your mobilisation has been powerful and rest assured, we are listening,” he said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies