published on 25 September 2019 in air

Climate action summit: lots of talk, still not many facts

Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, had made a clear plea: participants had been urged to arrive at the UN Summit on Climate on 23rd September with facts, not words. The participating Countries had been asked to arrive at the summit on climate in New York with realistic plans, indicating how to achieve the most challenging goals of the Paris Agreement, i.e. maintaining the Earth’s temperature at not more than 1.5°C above the levels of the pre-industrial age. Science has been clear: the last IPCC report states that the only way to avoid the collapse is to achieve zero net emissions by 2050. The meeting in New York aimed to prepare the ground for the next conference on climate, COP 25. It is due to be held in Chile in December and many people hope it will finally be the decisive one.

Guterres made the following opening remarks: “This is not a climate talk summit. We have had enough talk. This is not a climate negotiation summit, because we can’t negotiate with nature. This is a climate action summit. From the beginning, I said the entry ticket is not a beautiful speech, but concrete action. Governments are here to show they are serious about increasing the national contributions stated by the Paris Agreement.” Only 77 countries answered his plea by presenting a plan for zero emissions by 2050. They are mainly small developing countries that, taken together, represent only 6.8% of emissions. No effective plan arrived, on the contrary, from the top emitters, such as China, India, and the United States.

Certainly, it was the young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg who made the most moving speech at this UN summit: “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. Yet, I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering, people are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are at the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you […] You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal […] The eyes of all future generations are upon you, and if you choose to fail us, we will never forgive you.”

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