With global emissions reaching record levels and showing no sign of peaking, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called national leaders to come to New York last September 23 for a Climate Action Summit. Guterres’s goal was to highlight concrete promises by presidents, prime ministers and corporate executives to wean the global economy from fossil fuels to avoid the worst effects of global warming.
The historic Youth Climate Summit, the first UN climate summit for young people, took place as part of a weekend of events leading up to the UN Climate Action Summit. It provided a platform for young leaders to showcase their solutions and meaningfully engage with Summit decision-makers. The Youth Climate Summit brought together young activists, innovators, entrepreneurs, and change-makers who are committed to addressing the global climate emergency. It was action-oriented, intergenerational, and inclusive, with equal representation of young leaders from all walks of life.
The contrast between the slow pace of action and the urgency of the problem in the Climate Action Summit was underscored by Swedish climate activist, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who excoriated world leaders for their business-as-usual approach. “The eyes of all future generations are upon you,” she said, her voice quavering with rage. “If you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you.”
Despite protests in the streets, China made no new promises to take stronger climate action. The United States, having vowed to pull out of the Paris Agreement, the pact among nations to jointly fight climate change, said nothing at all. And a host of countries made only incremental promises.
There were, however, some concrete measures. By the end of the day, 65 countries had announced efforts to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, several asset fund managers said they would aim to get to a net-zero portfolio of investments by the same year, and dozens of businesses said they would aim to abide by the Paris Agreement targets.
Perhaps the most prominent person in the next generation is Thunberg who had first became known for her activism in August 2018 when, at age 15, she began spending her school days outside the Swedish parliament to call for stronger action on global warming by holding up a sign reading (in Swedish), “School strike for the climate.” Soon, other students engaged in similar protests in their own communities. Together, they organized a school climate strike movement under the name Fridays for Future. After Thunberg addressed the UN Climate Change Conference last year, student strikes took place every week somewhere in the world. In 2019, coordinated multi-city protests involved over two million students.
Thunberg is the youngest person to be named Person of the Year on the cover of Time magazine. She has been disparaged by both Presidents Trump and Putin which should tell you something about the power of her messages.
Diagnosed with autism, Thunberg had fallen into a deep depression by age eleven. There were a number of factors, “some,” writes Naomi Klein in her new, must-read book, On Fire; The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal, related to being different in a school system that expects all kids to be pretty much the same. “Many people on the autism spectrum,” Klein says, “are also less prone to imitating the social behaviors of the people around them – they often don’t even notice them – and instead tend to forge their own unique path. In a way, she is asking those of us whose mental wiring is more typical – less prone to extraordinary focus and more capable of living with moral contradictions – to be more like her.”
The New York Times called the now 16-year-old Thunberg’s visit to the U.S. “a barnstorming tour for our time: She had demanded of world leaders at the UN, ‘You all come to us young people for hope. How dare you?’ She had marched alongside millions in the Global Climate Strike. She had rallied with thousands of fellow students in places like Iowa City. She had stood with Native American activists at Standing Rock.”
Two and a half months after she arrived by boat in New York Harbor, she set sail for her return home across the Atlantic Ocean in a 48-foot catamaran, La Vagabonde, which as outfitted with solar panels and hydro-generators had a minimal carbon footprint. She hoped to get back to Europe in time for the Madrid Climate Change Conference, COP25, intended to bring the world together to consider ways to strengthen the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
In Madrid, the global climate talks lurched to an end with finger-pointing, accusations of failure and fresh doubts about the world’s collective resolve to slow the warming of the planet – at a moment when scientists say time is running out for people to avert steadily worsening climate disasters. The delegates from nearly 200 nations had wrestled for more than 40 hours past their planned deadline, making the COP25 the longest in the 25-year history of the climate talks.
I could go on but space requires me to cut to the chase. I invite G.E.T. readers, urge them, to listen to Thunberg’s “How Dare You!” presentation to the UN Climate Change Conference. She captures in her passionate voice, how all of us must embrace the reality of our climate crisis. Her message is visually enhanced in the video by Mei Li, an extraordinary animator and illustrator who is one of the highly talented people who comprise the New York-based ADLubow, LLC advertising agency. They are the creative force behind a distinguished roster social change and public good clients. Please go to this web link and hear for yourself A Voice in the Wilderness: Greta Thunberg. You will find that what so many of us are feeling, but unable to express, is given voice by Thunberg www.adlubow.com/climate-for-change/.
John Bos is a contributing writer to Green Energy Times. He has written about his growing concerns about our endangered environment for the past ten years. Your comments and questions are invited at firstname.lastname@example.org.