Artist and activist Ai Weiwei has cautioned against seeing COP26 as the answer to the world’s climate problems, insisting “we cannot depend on one meeting”.
It is the “responsibility of being a human” that we all look after the planet, he told Sky News.
Speaking about the climate conference, which begins on Sunday in Glasgow, the leading Chinese dissident said it “probably is too late and most likely nothing will change… we cannot depend on one meeting”.
As known for his political activism as his art, Weiwei came to prominence designing the Bird’s Nest stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
His life in China became increasingly difficult after he spoke out against the Chinese government and he left his home country in 2015.
However, the artist defends how China’s greenhouse emissions have come to exceed all developed nations – saying that China’s 1.4 billion people per capita produce less greenhouse emissions than the US.
“I think what we have to understand is what China did, every nation did before… so to use one standard to measure certain areas is very colonial and very discriminating,” he said.
Whatever agreements are reached at COP26, Ai Weiwei believes China is capable of change.
“China is aware of the challenge ahead… on the basis of a sectarian state, once they make a clear policy, they can follow up their decisions, and if they really want to they can do anything to achieve their plan.”
The artist was speaking as his latest work, a digital project starting from the year he was born until now, goes on public display at Piccadilly Circus in London as part of the Circa art movement.
He also joins leading creatives – including Hans Ulrich Obrist, Indy Johar, Katharine Hamnett and Sir David Adjaye – in giving his thoughts to the art platform’s first print publication, a manifesto called “Where do we go from now?”
In it, he answers: “Do we ever go anywhere? I think we are going nowhere, we are staying. And the question is, can we really stay here?”
The artist says we all need to take a stand on climate change.
“Deforestation and pollution is all done by a human. We always point a finger to others but, in that sense, everybody’s involved. Everybody contributed to the damage of the planet.
“If you don’t act or if you’re not conscious about what has been going wrong, I think that’s so tragic… I think this is a responsibility of being human to take care of all human conditions.”