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‘How dare you!’ Greta Thunberg challenges world leaders

24 September 2019

Guterres calls for less talk and more action at Climate Summit


Greta Thunberg at the UN Climate Action World Summit on Monday

Greta Thunberg at the UN Climate Action World Summit on Monday

A FURIOUS Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish schoolgirl who sparked the school climate-strike movement, told a summit of world leaders on Monday that their betrayal of future generations would not be forgiven.

At times holding back tears, and with unconcealed anger in her voice, she said: “This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be standing here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to me for hope? How dare you!

“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”

If they fully understood the situation “and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil”, Ms 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.”

Opening the special Climate Action Summit in New York, the UN secretary-general, António Guterres, said: “This is not a climate-talk summit. We have had enough talk. This is not a climate-negotiation summit. You don’t negotiate with nature. This is a climate-action summit.”

Such was Mr Guterres’s determination to avoid giving a platform to those who had failed to take climate change seriously, the leaders of the United States, Japan, Australia, and Saudi Arabia were among those who were refused an opportunity to speak, because their proposals were deemed to not be new or ambitious enough.

Some countries made new announcements after feeling the pressure from Friday’s school strikes. The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, reportedly convened a 19-hour meeting of her climate cabinet on Friday to agree new plans to put the country back on track to meet its emissions-reduction targets for 2030.

To comeChurches groups take part in a Climate Strike in New York, on Friday of last week

Greece announced that it would close all its lignite coal-plants, the only kind that it has, by 2028, despite its current reliance on the fuel.

There was a commitment from 66 countries, including the world’s poorest 47, to net zero emissions by 2050 along with ten regional governments, 102 city administrations and more than 100 businesses and investors.

But, despite the ambition of the secretary-general, critics spoke of a notable lack of new, concrete commitments from developed world leaders.

The head of global policy for Christian Aid, Dr Alison Doig, said: “It was a noble ambition for António Guterres to hold the summit, but world leaders failed to take the opportunity to put the world on the right track. The few actions that have been announced are far from world-changing, and that is what is required.

“The one glimmer of hope was that 59 countries have committed to strengthening their national pledges under the Paris Agreement by 2020. Ahead of global climate negotiations in Glasgow next year, we need to see that number grow and the content of those pledges meet the challenge we face.”

The UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, pledged to double the UK’s contribution to developing countries’ climate efforts. New funding was also announced to protect biodiversity and to develop UK climate science.

The global influencing and advocacy director at Tearfund, Dr Ruth Valerio, said: “The UK has taken a positive step forward in investing in a bright, clean future for poorer countries with clean energy and technology. However, it is still spending billions on outdated fossil fuels, which will continue to make the climate emergency worse. This does not make financial or moral sense.

“Millions of young people are leading the call and demanding that world leaders cannot continue with business as usual. We need bold climate leadership from the UK Government as it gears up to host crucial climate talks in Glasgow next year.”

While leaders were meeting in New York, members of Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter blocked streets in Washington DC, chaining themselves to large yellow and pink boats that were parked at a busy intersection. Two hundred other members of the group held an impromptu street party.

The group said in a statement: “We know that this shutdown will cause massive disruption to people who bear little responsibility for the climate catastrophe we are facing. But we will also cause massive disruption for politicians, huge corporations, and the lobbyists who control our government.”

In the UK, Extinction Rebellion is planning two weeks of action to close roads around Westminster from 7 October. As part of the action, Christian Climate Action and other faith groups plan to occupy a bridge across the Thames.

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