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Thunberg berates older generations at UN Summit for their disregard of climate issues

Tuesday, September 24th 2019 - 09:43 UTC
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“People are suffering, people are dying, ecosystems are dying, collapsing...” cried Thunberg. “People are suffering, people are dying, ecosystems are dying, collapsing...” cried Thunberg.

A group of 16 young activists led by Greta Thunberg, denounced Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany and Turkey to the UN for not protecting children from the impact of climate change in one of Monday's highlights at the historic climate summit in New York convened by the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

“They have not fulfilled their promises,” said the 16-year-old Swede, on the sidelines of the actual UN climate summit in which she again denounced the inaction in the face of the emergency. This unprecedented complaint of 16 people aged between 8 and 17 has had the help of the international law firm Hausfeld and the blessing of UNICEF.

The demonstration is part of an “optional protocol” to the UN's convention which since 2014 allows for children to file a complaint with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, if they believe their rights were being denied. Their recommendations are not binding, but the 44 countries that have ratified this protocol agree in principle to respect them, explained Michael Hausfeld, who expects guidelines to be issued in the next 12 months.

The five countries included in the complaint have ratified the protocol, but are among the most polluting in the world and are influential in the select club of rich G20 nations, which is why they were preferred over the United States, China or India, the largest emitters in the world, which have not ratified this protocol.

“This is all wrong. I shouldn't be here, I should be at school, on the other side of the ocean,“ cried Thunberg. ”You come to us, young people, looking for hope. How dare you?  You [of the older generations] have stolen my dreams and my childhood with their empty words.  But I am a lucky one. People are suffering, people are dying, ecosystems are dying, collapsing. We are at the beginning of mass extinction and the only thing they talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth.  How dare you?,” she went on, visibly upset.

Thunberg cited the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to recall what is known as the “Carbon Budget,” a concept coined in the climate change negotiations but rarely part of the political speeches on the subject, which has to do with the maximum CO2 emissions allowed worldwide before reaching a point of no return, where the Paris Agreement goal of global warming over 1.5 ° C would be impossible.

“The world had 420 gigatons of CO2 to emit on January 1, 2018. Today that number has already dropped to 350 gigatons (…) With today's emission levels, what remains of the carbon budget will go [away] completely [in] eight and a half years. There will be no solutions to this, because these numbers are uncomfortable for you,” said the activist.

Thunberg then left the UN building and filed a lawsuit against Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany and Turkey, countries with high terrestrial emissions of greenhouse gases, which affect the health of children.

At this summit, Guterres made an unusual decision by picking who could speak on the podium and who could not, based on how ambitious their commitments  to reduce greenhouse gas emissions were

“I said it from the beginning, the entrance ticket to this summit was not a pretty speech, but the concrete action. And here, we await your commitments,” Guterres said.

In that decision, Guterres left out dignataries from the United States, Brazil, Australia and South Korea.  But Donald Trump decided to show up all the same.

The US president, who next year faces
an election that may be crucial to the future of the Paris Agreement, appeared during the presentation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and stayed to listen to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and France's President Emmanuel Macron, thus defying Gutierres. Trump would come out again as Macron called for the developed countries to inject resources into the Green Climate Fund and thus help developing countries increase their climate ambition.

The goal of the Paris Agreement is that, by 2020, there is a financing of 100 million dollars per year for the Fund.  Macron promised to increase his contribution to $ 1.7 million and asked Trump to join the challenge.

Merkel also announced an extra contribution of 500 million dollars to the Green Fund and the creation of insurance to face climate-related catastrophes, which has been a demand for years from nations more vulnerable to climate change.

“Industrialised countries have an obligation to develop technologies and invest in stopping climate change,” said Merkel.

China's representative Wang Yi, a special envoy of President Xi Jinping, called for the Paris Agreement's principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” to be honoured. It has to do with the historical responsibility in emissions bt the developed countries. “We must mobilize resources and respect the conditions of developing countries, their right to grow,” said the Chinese dignatary.

Chile's President Sebastián Piñera, however, had a Freudian slip when he spoke of “an ambitious deforestation plan” his country allegedly had, but besides that, the took the podium fr five minutes to, among other issues, thank
Guterres for his appointing his country to monitor actions by 66 nations to present ambitious COP25 goals, that is the document which guides the climate action of each country under the Paris Agreement.

“It is clear that COP25 has to be a leap forward.  We expect countries with their most ambitious and most demanding [contributions] NDCs, because those we have made are not enough and are not being met,” said Piñera.

The German organisation Climate Analytics Monday released a report that associates the countries' commitments in the Paris Agreement with the definitive closure of coal-fired thermoelectric plants, the main emitters of CO2 into the atmosphere. The report indicates that, with today's coal plants, the world moves away from the 1.5 ° C target, reaching emissions three times higher than those compatible with Paris.  ”In all the possible projections, where there is a strategy for reducing emissions there has to be a radical fall in coal as an electricity producer,” explained Paola Parra, author of the study.

The analysis took the latest IPCC report to make the prediction that Latin America must completely eliminate coal as a source of electricity generation by 2032 if it wants to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. That is, eight years before the Decarbonization Plan that President Piñera announced a few months ago.

“Chile has a Decarbonization Plan that, if implemented, would lead to significant emission reductions.  They have great potential to update their NDC, but if they want to be compatible with the Paris Agreement, Chile has to close its thermoelectric plants before 2040, eight years before. A truly ambitious NDC would be that, because it is a country with a lot of dependence on coal, ”says Parra.

Categories: Environment, International.

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