Keeping Hope Alive in Glasgow

A dispatch from the protests outside COP26.

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Hello from Glasgow. We’re dedicating this newsletter to COP26, the United Nations conference happening here this week and next, which we covered on the show on Wednesday.

This COP is (forgive us) a tale of two conferences. There are the official meetings, which are attended by 130 heads of state and government and their delegations, intending to set new targets for cutting emissions from burning coal, oil and gas that are heating the planet.

Then there is everything happening outside the conference — where tens of thousands of activists have gathered to demand more from world leaders, call for collective action and highlight the Indigenous and marginalized voices often left out of the climate conversation.

“We’ve been building to this moment with our climate coverage all year,” Clare Toeniskoetter, a senior producer on The Daily, said. “We tried to go inside the conference to ask the question many people outside it have posed, which is: Will this conference make a difference?”

In this newsletter, we wanted to take you outside the conference to give an update on what has happened since Wednesday. Then we share a playlist of our climate episodes that explore the real-world effects of the diplomats’ decisions.

The Big Idea: Keeping hope alive in Glasgow

The Daily strives to reveal a new idea in every episode. Below, we go deeper on one of those from our show this week.

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Demonstrators walking through Glasgow during the Fridays for Future march on Friday.Credit…Kieran Dodds for The New York Times

Sarah Adam was a Green Peace member and vegetarian long before Food Inc., Michael Pollan and Ariana Grande made eating only vegetables cool.

Over the past few decades, Sarah, 50, a nurse from Birmingham, England, has grown up alongside the climate justice movement. “I’ve been fighting for this since I was about 15,” she said at a protest outside the U.N.’s global climate summit, COP26. “And for 30 years, it felt on the periphery. Now it’s all front and center.”

An estimated 25,000 people marched across Glasgow today in the largest protest in the city since the conference started. The protest was led by the international climate movement Fridays for Future, drawing a crowd of young people, Indigenous activists, socialist campaigners and veteran environmentalists like Sarah, who attended with her 19-year-old daughter.

Seeing the crowd made Sarah “really hopeful,” even as activists speaking onstage at the protest demanded more action. Greta Thunberg, whose 2018 climate strike inspired Fridays for Future, described the climate talks in Glasgow as “a failure,” adding, “We cannot solve a crisis by the same methods that got us into it in the first place.”

This week, governments and corporations have made pledges to end deforestation, phase out coal-fired power plants and mobilize trillions of dollars for green initiatives. Activists at the protest today dismissed the commitments as insufficient and riddled with loopholes, part of a “two-week-long celebration of business as usual and blah, blah, blah,” Greta said. Vanessa Nakate, a 24-year-old Ugandan activist, told the protesters, “We need to continue holding leaders accountable for their actions.”

“The kids have every reason to be frustrated,” John Kerry, President Biden’s special envoy on climate change, said at the New York Times Climate Hub after the protest. “We will get to a low-carbon economy — we will get there. The only issue is, will we get there in time?”

Having watched COPs for decades, Sarah said she had to hope change would come out of this “much better attended and much better publicized” conference. Although in previous COPs, countries “might have sent junior members of staff and delegates,” she said she was grateful that Biden, Boris Johnson and European heads of state had attended. “That wouldn’t have happened 10 years ago.”

Clare Toeniskoetter, our producer, explains the significance of their attendance. “This is the one moment where the Davids and Goliaths are together, face to face, at the same table,” Clare said. “I think we represented that in the episode, hearing from Biden and Boris, but also the leaders of Fiji and Barbados.”

And young people traveled from six continents to join the protests outside to urge all national representatives, from the G20 and outside of it, to act.

When asked what message they had for world leaders, Gaia Rey, 9, from Glasgow, said: “This is my future. Don’t mess with it.” Daniela Mengual, also 9, from Spain, said, “We need to act fast.” And finally, Jacob Hine, 13, from the Lake District in England, had a message for the prime minister of Britain: “Get your ears cleaned out and listen.”

Learning more about the climate crisis

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Heather Kingdon took measures to combat the Dixie wildfire as it threatened her family’s home in Genesee, Calif., last month.Credit…Christian Monterrosa for The New York Times

For the past few months, The Daily has produced a series of climate-related episodes. We have told personal stories of individuals and families learning to live with extreme weather events and followed the bumpy road toward passing policy that may help to curb the worst effects of our warming planet.

“After hearing the stories of families and individuals on the ground who are struggling to adapt to the effects of climate change, COP was the moment to ask questions about whether conferences and commitments can spur the action needed to slow the planet’s warming,” Claudine Ebeid McElwain, a senior editor said.

As we wrap up the first week of COP26, we thought we’d give you a short playlist of some of our recent episodes that focus on the real-world effects of the discussions at the conference.

How a Single Senator Derailed Biden’s Climate Plan: The Clean Electricity Program was the heart of the Biden climate agenda — it would have reduced the role fossil fuels played in the production of electricity. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, however, withdrew his support. Where does that leave American climate policy?

One Family’s Fight Against the Dixie Fire: The Times reporter Annie Correal tells us a story close to her heart. In this episode, she followed her family in India Valley, in Northern California, as her aunt, uncle and cousins stood their ground and protected their property as the Dixie wildfire closed in.

A ‘Code Red for Humanity’: In August, a stark warning was delivered in a U.N. scientific report: The climate crisis has arrived, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Which Towns Are Worth Saving: We visited some regularly flood-hit towns in North Carolina — Avon and Fair Bluff — to confront a heartbreaking question: How does a community decide whether its homes are worth saving?

The Aftermath of Hurricane Ida: When Hurricane Ida hit New Orleans this year, comparisons with Katrina were made. There was, however, a crucial difference: In the years since Katrina, the city has invested heavily in flood defenses. Yet, on the ground there was little cause for celebration.

A Wind Farm in Coal Country: How and why one local politician in Carbon County, Wyo. — a conservative who says he’s “not a true believer” in climate change — brought wind power to his community.

On The Daily this week

Monday: Inside the Times investigation that found that U.S. police officers have killed more than 400 unarmed drivers or passengers during traffic stops in the past five years.

Tuesday: A look at rising inflation in the U.S. and the tense political situation it has created for President Biden.

Wednesday: Hundreds of heads of state have gathered in Glasgow for COP26. Will it spur action?

Thursday: Why did the Democrats perform poorly in this week’s closely watched elections?

Friday: The trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager who shot and killed two people in Kenosha, Wis., last summer.

That’s it for The Daily newsletter. See you next week.

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