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Young people are protesting in Glasgow, demanding concrete action at climate summit

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

While governments work out formal written agreements on climate change at the big climate summit underway in Glasgow, young activists are out on the streets of that city, demanding action right now. Thousands of young people poured into the heart of Glasgow today to protest the slow pace of world leaders in reducing carbon emissions. NPR's Frank Langfitt has been out at the rally. He's still there. This is one of several planned for this weekend in Glasgow.

Hey there, Frank.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Hey, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Tell me what you've seen. What are you hearing?

LANGFITT: Yeah, it was - actually it was quite a rally. It was thousands of people, and mostly, I would say, high schoolers, college students, mostly white, British and European. People are just drifting out now. It's getting a bit dark.

KELLY: All right. And what type thing are you hearing as you talk to them? What do they want?

LANGFITT: It was really interesting. What was so interesting is that while the audience was very much a European audience, that most of the speakers were from the global south - Brazil, Uganda, Pakistan, Ecuador. And they were talking about what's been a big theme at this conference, is the idea that poor nations, developing nations - they've been bearing the brunt of climate change, whether it's rising seas, more severe storms, droughts. And while some of the big, rich countries - the ones that emit the most carbon - people in the global south feel that they aren't moving fast enough to reduce these emissions. And Evelyn Acham - she's from Uganda. Here's what she had to say at the rally today.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

EVELYN ACHAM: We are here to tell the leaders today, in Africa and the global south, the present is already catastrophic for us. Stop investing in any new fossil fuel projects. You need to stop now. If you continue this, we will not be able to achieve the 1.5-degrees target.

KELLY: So, Frank, I hear the sense of urgency there. It sounds like the message is, this can't wait, and you - hey, rich countries, you need to do a lot more.

LANGFITT: Yeah, you did hear that. And people - even Evelyn was talking about climate finance. And this is this idea that rich countries should be giving about $100 billion to help the poor nations address climate change in their areas and also help reduce carbon emissions. And the rich countries have not been meeting that target, which they promised in the past. And there's a woman named Sofia Gutierrez - a climate activist from Colombia. And she really hit home this message.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SOFIA GUTIERREZ: COP will end, and you will all go back home today and continue with your lives. But I hope you don't. I hope you join the fight and stop the climate crisis.

LANGFITT: So very - I mean, very sort of stark message about responsibility that wealthy nations have for this problem.

KELLY: What's your sense, having reported from the streets where you are now and inside the conference? Are these young people's voices being heard inside?

LANGFITT: They certainly don't feel it. And that's why they were out here today. There are these two sets of fences that divide, you know, what's going on in the conference, which really is where all the power is. And then outside here...

KELLY: Two, like, literal sets of fences, you mean - like, two barriers.

LANGFITT: Two sets of fences.

KELLY: Yeah. OK.

LANGFITT: I walk through them every day. And so it's kind of a symbolic dividing line. Of course, they need it for security. But you do get the sense that out here, there are people who have very, very strong feelings, feel that this really is existential for their generation and that the older people in power aren't doing enough. I talked to Henrietta Wood (ph). She's actually a high school student. She's been an observer inside the summit, and here was her take on it.

HENRIETTA WOOD: It's very frustrating because the politicians are not taking young people seriously. And inside the negotiations, many young people feel ostracized or not let in. So it's so important to be able to listen to young people, as we are the future.

KELLY: That is one of many of the young people who Frank Langfitt has been out and about interviewing in the streets of Glasgow, Scotland today. More protests, an even bigger one tomorrow - is that right?

LANGFITT: Yeah, the estimation is as many as 100,000 people. We'll just have to see if COVID keeps some people away.

KELLY: All right. Thank you, Frank.

LANGFITT: Great to talk, Mary Louise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.