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‘Greta Mania’ hits Glasgow as Swedish teen is mobbed upon arrival for COP26 summit

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 10/31/2021 Karla Adam
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GLASGOW, Scotland— Greta Thunberg may not have been officially invited to the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, but on the first day of the conference, she was making her presence felt.

The Swedish teenager, who is something of a rock star for climate campaigners worldwide, is among thousands of activists descending on Glasgow for the 12-day U.N. Climate Change Conference of the Parties, known as COP26, which kicked off Sunday. They are calling on world leaders to take bold action to prevent global temperatures from rising by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels.

Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr in an interview aired Sunday, Thunberg said that the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius was “possible in theory” but that “it’s up to us if we want that to happen.”

Thunberg arrived by train in Glasgow on Saturday night and was quickly surrounded by about 100 people at the station. Several police officers escorted her away.

“Finally in Glasgow for the COP26! And thank you for the very warm welcome,” tweeted the 18-year-old, who included a picture of her giving a thumbs-up to the crowd. Scotland’s Sunday Mail newspaper called the scene “Greta Mania.”

Thunberg traveled to Glasgow from London, where she had taken part in a protest demanding that financial institutions stop funding fossil fuel extraction.

In the BBC interview, Thunberg said that sometimes anger was the right response in the face of governmental inaction on climate. She was asked about the protest tactics of climate campaigners in Britain, who in recent weeks have been blocking roads.

“To make clear, as long as no one gets hurt . . . I think sometimes you need to anger some people,” she said. “Like, for instance, the school strike movement would never have become so big if there wasn’t friction.” Thunberg was referring to the youth climate protest movement called Fridays for Future that she founded in 2018.

[What you need to know about the U.N. COP26 climate summit — and why it matters]

Thunberg is expected to take part in a demonstration on Friday organized by the Scottish arm of Fridays for Future. She is also scheduled to speak at a demonstration the next day.

In the BBC interview, Thunberg said she hadn’t “officially” been invited to speak at COP26.

“I think that many people might be scared that if they invite too many radical young people, then that might make them look bad,” she told Marr, using air quotes to emphasize the word “radical.”

She said the conference needed “more representation from the so-called Global South, from the most affected people and areas.”

“It’s not fair, when, for example, one country sends lots and lots of delegates, and then another country is very underrepresented. That already creates an imbalance, and climate justice is at the very heart of this crisis,” she said.

The COP26 Coalition, which represents youth strikers, trade unions, faith groups and others, has called the climate summit “the most exclusionary in history, with thousands blocked from making their voices heard.” The coalition said people have been hindered from getting to Glasgow, citing a lack of access to coronavirus vaccines, travel restrictions, sky-high accommodation costs and other obstacles.

One American delegate shared on social media his exchange with a property owner who asked for an extra $2,000 after realizing that the rental period overlapped with the summit.

About 25,000 guests from nearly 200 countries are expected to attend the summit. Downing Street said it was one of the largest events Britain has hosted.

Leaders from more than 100 countries are expected in Glasgow for crunch talks on Monday and Tuesday, but there are notable absences, including the leaders of China and Russia. Earlier this month, Queen Elizabeth II appeared to express irritation at world leaders who wouldn’t commit to the summit.

Asked about the monarch’s remarks, Thunberg said most people would concur with the queen.

“Yeah, I think most people agree with that,” she said.

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