‘How dare you – you have stolen my dreams and my childhood’
In a stinging speech on Monday, the teenage Swedish climate activist told governments 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.”
Days after millions of young people joined protests worldwide to demand emergency action on climate change, leaders gathered for the annual United Nations general assembly aiming to inject fresh momentum into efforts to curb carbon emissions.
But Thunberg predicted the summit would not deliver any new plans in line with the radical cuts in greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say are needed to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown.
The summit was designed to accelerate countries’ ambition to address the climate crisis amid increasingly urgent warnings by scientists. A new UN analysis has found that commitments to cut planet-warming gases must be at least tripled and increased by up to fivefold if the world is to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris agreement of holding the temperature rise to at most 2C above the pre-industrial era.
The world is currently on track to warm by as much as 3.4C by the end of the century, the UN warned, a situation that would escalate disastrous heatwaves, flooding, droughts and societal unrest. Major coral reefs and many other species face extinction.
“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 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.”
There were a few signs of progress. A group of nearly 90 large companies promised to reach net zero emissions by 2050, while a handful of countries said they will be winding down coal use. But it became apparent that most of the ambition was coming from developing countries, rather than the major polluters.Advertisement
Trump has vowed to pull the US out of the Paris agreement, while other major powers are wary of making further commitments ahead of key UN climate talks in Glasgow next year.