Nepal | July 15, 2020

Climate summit pledges fall short, as big emitters skip ‘honest appraisal’

REUTERS
Share Now:

People take part in the Global Climate Strike walk in Lahore, Pakistan September 20, 2019. Photo: Reuters

UNITED NATIONS: At a UN summit on accelerating action on climate change Monday, India promised a boost in its use of renewable power and Finland said it aims to become the first industrialized nation to absorb more carbon than it emits.

Pakistan, which has planted a billion trees in the last five years, pledged to add 10 billion in the next five, and Greece said it would ban single-use plastics by 2021 and phase out its use of the dirtiest coal by 2028.

Monday’s summit, called by UN chief António Guterres, was designed as a launch-pad for more ambitious action on climate change – but while some stepped up, there were few big surprises from the most powerful, biggest-emitting countries.

Some of their leaders had not been invited to speak, due to their lack of commitment to ramp up efforts.

US President Donald Trump, whose administration has repeatedly moved to block action to address climate change, unexpectedly entered the summit, but stayed only briefly.

On the podium, a roll call of about 60 leaders largely extolled work already underway to boost clean energy, plant more trees, cut waste, shift investment and reduce risks for the world’s most vulnerable nations, observers said.

Critics said such work was crucial and much-needed, but taken together, efforts – particularly by the biggest contributors to climate change – were not yet of sufficient scale to wrest the world onto a cleaner, safer pathway.

“This summit was supposed to be a turning point. But we have seen an exceptional lack of commitment from the biggest and richest polluting countries, that continue to take trivial measures toward solving a life or death crisis,” said Harjeet Singh, who leads climate change work for charity ActionAid.

Kate Hampton, who spoke at the summit as head of the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, said she was incredibly sad that the promises made there would likely disappoint young activists pushing for rapid change to address climate threats.

“I wish my seat had been taken by a G20 leader doubling down on their commitment,” she said. “If we can’t massively accelerate the many solutions available to us now … then what are we doing, really?”

Jennifer Morgan, the head of Greenpeace International, said that “for the most part, world leaders did not deliver what was needed in New York today”.

‘CHANGE IS COMING’

As the politicians spoke, young climate activists filed a landmark complaint in New York asking the United Nations to order its members to act swiftly on accelerating climate change, to protect future generations.

The petition, brought by Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg and 15 other young campaigners, charged that climate threats – from extreme weather to worsening hunger – effectively amounted to a violation of the human rights of children.

“People are suffering. People are dying … and all you can talk about is the money and the fairytales of eternal economic growth,” a furious Thunberg told the opening of the UN summit.

“If you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you,” she said, before leaving the stage to file the complaint alongside 14-year-old New York youth activist Alexandria Villaseñor and other young campaigners.

Many world leaders at the UN summit said they recognized the severity of climate threats – and knew that what they were doing to address them remained insufficient.

“If we have to overcome the extraordinary threat that climate change poses, we must start with an honest appraisal of ourselves,” noted New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, whose country is a leader in efforts to curb planet-warming emissions.

President Hilda Heine of the low-lying Marshall Islands – one of a set of Pacific island states pursuing aggressive emissions cuts – said “it is time for leaders to do just that – lead”.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of Greece – where more than 100 people died in a terrifying wildfire last year – said he could increasingly see threats rising in his own country, one reason the country was stepping up emissions reductions.

French President Emmanuel Macron also urged faster action, saying “we cannot leave our young people continuing to spend all their Fridays protesting”.

A solo weekly protest by Thunberg, launched a little over a year ago in front of the Swedish parliament to demand climate action has swollen into a global school strike movement that last Friday drew in about 4 million protesters worldwide.

On Monday, Thunberg said young people would not let world leaders “get away with” inaction on climate threats.

“Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up and change is coming whether you like it or not,” she said, accusing them of a “betrayal” of future generations.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said he took the young activists at their word.

“They will be watching us, and they will not let us go. This must be taken very seriously,” he warned.


Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

Many hope to make a killing collecting driftwood

RAJBIRAJ, JULY 13 While the monsoon brings worries for many people, it has brought cheers to the residents of Hanumannagar Kankalini Municipality in Saptari. According to Gulten Mandal of Hanumannagar Kankalini, hundreds of people gather at the Koshi Barrage on a daily basis to collect dri Read More...

Landslide disrupts traffic along East-West Highway in Nawalpur

NAWALPUR: Landslide triggered by incessant rain has obstructed the East-West Highway at Daunne in Binayi Triveni Rural Municipality-2 of Nawalpur district since Tuesday morning. According to Nawalpur District Police Office, the landslide debris fell into Ghiu Khola near Bishwokarma temple thi Read More...

Transport workers demand salary for lockdown period in Gandaki

POKHARA, JULY 13 Nepal Transport Independent Labourer’s Organisation Gandaki Province Committee today drew the attention of the Chief Minister of Gandaki Province, Prithvi Subba Gurung, to the need to meet their demands for salaries, facilities, health care services and other concerns. The o Read More...

South China Sea

US denies China's claims to South China Sea, tensions hover over already 'touchy' relations

KATHMANDU: The United States has denied China's controversial claims to most of the South China Sea. Beijing has been accused of using intimidation to undermine the sovereign rights of Southeast Asian coastal states in the South China Sea to bully them out of offshore resources. The move is likel Read More...

India-China sit for fourth round of talks to ease border tensions

KATHMANDU: Amid prevailing border tensions between India and China, the fourth round of Lieutenant-General level talks commenced on Tuesday. According to Press Trust of India (PTI), the meeting that was scheduled to begin at 11:30 am is being held at Chushul, which falls on the Indian side of the Read More...

Oli-Dahal holding talks in Baluwatar after a six-day hiatus

KATHMANDU: Prime Minister and Co-chair of ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) KP Sharma Oli and Co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal have met again today to further their discussions in an attempt to settle differences between party factions. The meeting, which has resumed after a gap of six days, is takin Read More...

Worldwide coronavirus cases cross 13.14 million, death toll over 571,500

At least 13,142,079 people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 571,854 have died, a Reuters tally showed. Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019. The World Read More...