Climate summit #6: Outside the blue zone

The climate summit is more than just a gathering of world leaders.
Verhelst and Crombag at the climate summit. Private photograph.

Students and protesters also found their way to Glasgow. We spoke with two students who were ‘simply curious’ to learn about the goings-on at the climate summit and were willing to spend quite a few hours on the train and bus to find out.

Joep Crombag (master student of Forest and Nature Conservation) and Kamiel Verhelst (recently graduated with a master’s in Geo-Information Science and active for Extinction Rebellion Wageningen) hopped on the train to London early this week, and from there, took the red-eye bus to Glasgow.

What did you do?

Verhelst: ‘Being “regular” guests at the climate summit, we were prohibited from entering the blue zone, the area where the deals are made, but we were able to enter the green zone, a public space where panel discussions and workshops are held.’

Crombag: ‘In addition to the official event, there is the large People’s Summit for Climate Justice. There, speakers from around the globe talk about their views on climate change. The atmosphere is open, and there is also more room for criticism of the climate summit and the world leaders than there is within the gates.’

What was the peak of the summit for you?

Crombag: ‘I don’t think there is a single highlight. I, for one, thought it was great to see how many people are involved and committed. Despite the general pessimism on the future, the atmosphere is pleasant.’

‘It is also great to see that the summit is more than just tough negotiations and intense panel discussions. Yesterday, we attended a theatre performance on salmon and how salmon and humans are connected. A completely different perspective on the issue.’

The question is whether this summit will ultimately produce results. What is your opinion?

Verhelst: ‘That is difficult for us to say. Being here was a new experience for us. Some commitments were made, but mostly for small steps, while I feel we have arrived at a point that calls for large strides.’

Crombag: ‘I don’t feel a revolution is imminent where everyone suddenly agrees to commit to much stricter climate goals.’

You also joined an Extinction Rebellion protest. How did that go?

Verhelst: ‘There was a march through the city, mostly with Scottish and British Extinction Rebellion groups. The protest ended at the entrance to the blue zone, which is gated off and guarded by police officers.’

Crombag: ‘Where protesting was permitted it was strongly regulated, and there was a large police presence. But it did not feel unsafe. The atmosphere was positive. There are many protests going on here; not all are related to the climate. Every day, we pass by a lone protester wearing a Darth Vader outfit. We still don’t know what exactly he is protesting against.’

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