The rain was unrelenting, the sky thick with dark clouds, but even in the wet and mud a small climate rally gathered outside the Scottish parliament building in Edinburgh at half past twelve to the playing of drums and whistles.
Little marquees were erected to provide shelter and house stalls for various causes. There was an eclectic array of flags and emblazoned umbrellas announcing support for Palestine and Extinction Rebellion. Several religiously affiliated organisations, including Christian Climate Action, Eco-Congregation Scotland and even the Church of Scotland were present. All demanded action on climate change.
COP 28 has been criticised by writers like George Monbiot as a cynical opportunity for fossil fuel lobbyists to meet to do private deals. Stephen Smellie of Unison spoke vehemently about the damage that he feels these lobbyists are doing. The global south contributes the least to carbon emissions but suffers disastrously from rising temperatures. He appealed to the “working people in this country” to act through their unions and spoke of the need for a just transition. What, he asked, should we tell the workers at Grangemouth oil refinery who may lose their jobs? For a just transition, workers must have a stake in the future.
Speakers delivered a multitude of perspectives, including Manal Shqair, a Palestinian climate justice activist, who is doing a PhD in sociology and spoke strongly of what she described as “apartheid Israel”. She expounded on her view that Israel has constructed a green narrative, or “greenwashing” to “deflect attention from its ethnic cleansing policies and practices against the Palestinian people and the destruction of their ecosystems.” Shqair was one of several speakers to view climate change as an intersectional issue, with political and economic dimensions.
Leia Achampong, climate and gender-equality activist, called for “system change, not climate change”. The speakers left a clear impression that global injustices were being covered up by a sophisticated and wide-ranging PR machine.
Dr Juliet Dunstone, a member of the Stop Rosebank campaign team, spoke passionately about the “dangerous radicals in the UK government” who have approved licences to go ahead with the development of the biggest oil field in the North Sea. Thanks to this huge subsidy, the benefactors will be Norway, which owns Equinor and Israel’s Ithaca Energy. Concluding her outrage against the injustice of Rosebank, Dunstone concluded, “We’re not backing down. We will stop Rosebank!”
Interweaving the speeches was uplifting music provided by Fischy Music – with songs like Let Justice Flow Like a River and Rhythms of Resistance, whose anthemic drumbeats repeated beneath an assertive whistle, setting a powerful presence for those in attendance.
With some light dancing followed by a silent vigil the rally closed, rain still pouring. Answering a question from Stephen Smellie, the crowd evidently preferred a dreich day in Edinburgh to the fake lights of Dubai. The grass outside the Scottish Parliament building had been well and truly trampled Climate rally outside Scottish Parliament, December 9th 2023