Greta Thunberg condemns world leaders for their failure to deliver ambitious new commitments at a United Nations summit to address threatening global heating. She has excoriated world leaders’ “betrayal” of young people through their inertia over the climate crisis.
The 16 years old Swedish climate activist told governments while delivering a stinging speech on Monday, that “you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is. You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal.”
The leaders gathered for the annual United Nations general assembly days after millions of young people joined protests worldwide to demand emergency action on climate change. The objective was to commit new emergency action to cut carbon emissions.
However, Thunberg forecasted that the summit would not come up with any new plans in line required for the radical cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown as per the scientists.
“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” a visibly emotional Thunberg said.
“The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us I say we will never forgive you. We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line.”
The Thunberg’s forecast was prescient, which became apparent through about 60 speeches from national representatives. The prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, told delegates that “the time for talking is over” in announcing a plan to ramp up renewable energy but not announced any phase-out of coal – a key goal set by the UN secretary-general, António Guterres, who convened the summit.
Similarly, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, set out a lengthy timeframe for ending coal mining in her country, i.e., only by 2038 and thus disappointed environmentalists.
China also declined to put forward any new measures to tackle the climate crisis.
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, called for the European Union for more emissions cuts and announced that France would not be in trade ties with countries that have not signed up for the landmark Paris climate agreement. “We cannot allow our youth to strike every Friday without action,” Macron said, about global climate strikes on Friday.
In the absence of the US, and Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil, the summit was somewhat overshadowed despite Guterres’ efforts. Brazil’s representatives were reportedly denied to make a presentation at the summit as the country failed to outline plans for strengthening efforts to counter climate change.
Donald Trump did visit the UN on Monday but only to see Modi’s speech at the climate summit before attending a meeting on religious freedom called by him.
As Trump arrived at the UN, Thunberg fixed the president with a hard stare while he crossed paths with her.
The goal of the summit was to speed up countries’ ambition to address the climate crisis amidst scientists’ increasingly urgent warnings.
According to a new UN analysis, commitments to cut emissions of GHG must be at least tripled and increased by up to fivefold to meet the goals of the Paris agreement 2015 to limit the temperature rise to at least 2C above the pre-industrial era.
As per current trajectory, the world is on track to warm by as much as 3.4C by the century end, which would create a situation to escalate devastating heatwaves, flooding, droughts, and societal unrest, the UN warned. Major coral reefs and many other species will become extinct.
“There’s a big dissonance between every leader saying to Greta ‘we hear you’ and the commitments they are putting on to the table,” said Isabel Cavelier, a former climate negotiator for Colombia who is now a senior adviser at the Mission 2020 climate group. “China said absolutely nothing new, India mentioned commitments made in the past, the US, Canada and Australia aren’t here. We are seeing governments showing up empty-handed. There’s a feeling that the big emitters are holding things back.”
The signs of progress were a few. A group of nearly 90 large companies sets a goal to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, and a handful of countries putting efforts for winding down coal use. However, most of the ambition was coming from developing countries, rather than the major polluters.
Pulling the US out of the 2015 Paris agreement is what Trump has vowed, while other significant powers are wary of making further commitments ahead of crucial UN climate talks in Glasgow coming year.
Thunberg’s speech was “very emotional and grounded in science,” said Alden Meyer, director of the strategy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “If I were a world leader, I’d feel very uncomfortable. But we’ve seen nothing from the big national leaders, the G20 players. It’s hard to say the summit moved the needle on the emissions curve.”
“Other countries must follow our lead,” said Hilda Heine, president of the Marshall Islands, a country extremely vulnerable to sea-level rise being situated on coral atolls in the Pacific. “Falling short will represent the greatest failure humanity has ever seen. The summit must be the moment we choose survival over selfishness.”
However, the delegates at the summit warned that the international effort to avoid dangerous global heating was being undermined by nationalism. “If you look at the US and Brazil, it’s a result of populist politics that is turning its back on the climate,” said Cavelier. “That needs to be made explicit and isolated from the world.”
Greta arrived in the US last month on a solar-powered yacht. Spearheading the largest ever climate protest by youth previous week, she directly castigated Congress and leaders at the UN.
On Monday, she lodged a formal complaint under the UN convention with 14 other children on the rights of the child.
According to the complainants, from countries including Argentina, France, Germany, the Marshall Islands, and the US, countries’ failure to address the climate crisis violates the international convention. “Each one of us had our rights violated and denied, our futures are being destroyed,” said 14-year-old Alexandria Villaseñor from New York who has taken to protesting every Friday outside the UN headquarters.
World leaders were endangering children by ignoring climate breakdown, Thunberg said. “They promised to protect the rights of the child and they have not done this,” she said at a media conference at the offices of UNICEF. “The message is that we have had enough.”