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‘The eyes of future generations are on you’ Thunberg tells UN Climate Summit

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‘The eyes of future generations are on you’ Thunberg tells UN Climate Summit

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Young people are an “unstoppable” force in pressuring world leaders to act on climate change, teenage activist Greta Thunberg told a United Nations panel on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019.
AP, AP

NEW YORK CITY — Grim faced, youth activist Greta Thunberg on Monday delivered harsh words to the world’s leaders at the start of the UN Climate Action Summit. 

“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here, I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean,” she chided.

Moments after the UN Secretary General delivered remarks on ramping up investments in green finance, 16-year-old Swede fired back: “People are suffering, people are dying, entire ecosystems are dying … and all you talk about is money and eternal fairy tales of economic growth. How dare you? 

“For more than 30 years the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away?”http://www.usatoday.com/”

Leaders from more than 100 nations attended the summit, meant to ramp up plans for the next stage of deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions promised by countries as part of the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change. 

The summit featured speeches from Pope Francis, France’s President Emmanuel Macron, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and others. But it was Thunberg’s speech that galvanized the crowd. 

She noted the world’s industries are rapidly burning through the budget for emissions scientists say must be followed to avoid dire consequences, leaving only a 50% chance under the accord to stop devastating climate chain reactions.

And, calculations to avoid catastrophe “rely on my generation sucking hundreds of billions of tons of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist,” she said. “So a 50% risk is simply not acceptable to us — we who have to live with the consequences.”

Adults lack the maturity to tell young people like it is, Thunberg added.

“You are failing us, but young people are starting to understand your betrayal,” she said. “The eyes of all future generations are on you, and I say if you do not act, we will never forgive you. Right here, right now is where we draw the line, and change is coming, whether you like it or not.”

Complaint filed on behalf of world’s children

Thunberg and 15 other young petitioners from a dozen countries on Monday filed an official complaint with the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, alleging that member nations’ failure to tackle the climate crisis constitutes a violation of child rights.  

The child petitioners — aged 8 to 17 — urged the independent body to order nations to take action to protect children from the devastating impacts of climate change. 

The Convention on the Rights of the Child allows children or adults on their behalf to appeal directly to the UN for help if a country that has ratified the protocol fails to provide a remedy for a rights violation, the petitioners said. Announced at UNICEF Headquarters in New York, the complaint aims to inspire urgent action.

“We fully support children exercising their rights and taking a stand. Climate change will impact every single one of them. It’s no wonder they are uniting to fight back,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Charlotte Petri Gornitzka. UNICEF is not a party to the complaint, and said it was neutral, and played no role in the Committee on the Rights of the Child process.

In addition to Thunberg and well-known US activist Alexandria Villaseñor, 14, from New York, the other child petitioners are from Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, India, Marshall Islands, Nigeria, Palau, South Africa, Sweden, Tunisia and the United States. They are represented by Hausfeld LLP and Earthjustice. 

Before Thunberg’s talk, Pope Francis spoke by video to the summit about the “honesty, responsibility and courage” needed to combat climate change, and the “very weak indeed” commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He questioned whether there is enough political will to save the Earth.

President Donald Trump, who wants to pull the United States out of the ratified 2015 Paris Agreement to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, did not speak at the meeting though he dropped in briefly. He has said he doesn’t believe human activity is the cause of climate change. 

While the United States is not speaking at the summit, other nations are. China and about 70 other countries are expected to make announcements about plans to curb the release of greenhouse gases. Another 40 or so countries are expected to attend, and might — or might not — end up on stage making new pledges.

Coalitions of cities and states as well as industry groups also are expected to make pledges during the summit.

At the beginning of the day, protesters in Washington D.C. blocked intersections to call attention to the climate emergency. Shut Down D.C.’s aim was to “disrupt the systems that created and perpetuate the climate crisis,” it said on its website.

Monday’s U.N. summit comes after a commitment Sunday by 130 banks holding $47 trillion in assets to climate action and sustainability, U.N. environment officials said. However, eight of the world’s 10 largest banks did not sign the agreement.

On Friday, tens of thousands of young people took part in the worldwide Youth Climate Strike, demanding faster action to address the climate crisis.

Emissions continue to rise

Science continues to show the need for rapid movement toward zero-carbon emission — a mark far from being met.

A U.N. science report released Sunday shows emissions into the Earth’s atmosphere continue to surge. A study released in July found that compared with the past 2,000 yearsthe warming seen in the past 100 years is unprecedented.

G-20 nations, the world’s largest economies, are responsible for 80% of emissions but are failing to meet already low targets. Globally, countries must triple their 2015 pledges to keep global warming well below 2°C (3.6° F) by 2100.

To keep temperatures from rising above the 1.5°C, a threshold seen as critical to the survival of small, low-lying countries, these nations would need to reduce emissions not just three times as much as their current pledge but five times.

Without significant action, fiercer hurricanes, heat waves, droughts, floods and related food scarcity and health impacts are predicted. 

The World Bank estimates by 2050 there will be 140 million climate refugees globally.

The World Health Organization predicts 250,000 deaths a year by 2030 attributed to the climate crisis — a number a study in the New England Journal of Medicine found to be a conservative.

A U.N. report this year estimated that some 1 million plant and animal species are on the verge of extinction.

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