Cop26 climate summit: Protests should be peaceful and lawful – Scotsman comment

19 days to Cop26: In Aesop's Fables, there is a story about a competition between the North Wind and the Sun over who can get a passing traveller to take off his cloak.

Extinction Rebellion activists in trademark red costumes stage a peaceful protest against climate change (Picture: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)

The North Wind blows and it blows, but however hard it tries, the man just clings ever tighter to his cloak and eventually it gives up. Taking its turn, the Sun shines, the traveller quickly removes his cloak and basks in its warmth.

Today these ancient stories are considered to be for children, partly because of the simple messages they convey. This one makes it clear that persuasion, rather than attempts at coercion, is a much better way to get someone to do what you want.

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And that brings us to the Cop26 climate summit and the threat of illegal, disruptive protests by campaign groups calling for greater action to combat global warming.

Given their argument is so eminently reasonable, supported as it is by the world’s scientists, it is odd to suppose that making life more difficult for people going about their everyday lives is somehow going to help win them over to the cause. It may attract attention, but most will be negative.

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Rather than helping, they instead enable opponents of action to paint them as extremists and undermine the pressing need to reduce carbon emissions.

As Princes Charles said in an interview with the BBC: “I totally understand the [protesters'] frustration. But it isn’t helpful, I don’t think, to do it in a way that alienates people.”

Public demonstrations can help pressure world leaders into doing the right thing, but they should be peaceful and lawful.

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