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

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. The world’s leaders are being urged to do more to stop global temperature rises exceeding 1.5° Celsius (2.7° Fahrenheit) from 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. She was escorted away by several police officers.

“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. Thunberg was asked about protests by climate activists in Britain who have blocked roads in recent weeks.

“To make clear, as long as no one gets hurt . . . She said that sometimes it is necessary to upset some people. “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.

Thunberg is expected to take part in a demonstration on Friday organized by the Scottish arm of Fridays for Future. The next day, Thunberg will also be speaking at the demonstration.

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. This already causes an imbalance and climate justice lies at the heart of this crisis,” she stated.

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 stated that it is one of the most important events Britain 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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