UN climate summit falls short | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 25, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:30 AM, September 25, 2019

UN climate summit falls short

Despite Thunberg’s passionate, bold plea, major polluters make no new promises

♦ Climate advocates shun UN inaction

♦ Trump slammed for trolling Thunberg 

♦ Oceans, climate report approved after all-night standoff


Greta Thunberg’s emotional and strong pleas to world leaders at a UN climate summit apparently made little impact as announcements by major economies fell far short of expectations.

The Swedish teen’s impassioned speech, in which she repeated the words “How dare you” four times, was the defining moment of the meeting, called by UN chief Antonio Guterres to reinvigorate the faltering Paris climate agreement.

Ahead of the conference, the United Nations issued a release saying 66 countries vowed to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, along with 10 regions, 102 cities, and scores of businesses. But pre-summit predictions of new, headline-grabbing commitments, particularly by the likes of China and India, failed to match reality, angering environmental groups.

However, a major report detailing the dire impact of global warming on oceans and Earth’s frozen zones was approved by the UN’s 195-nation climate science body yesterday after an all-night standoff with Saudi Arabia over wording.

The world’s top scientists believe long-term temperature rise must be limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels to prevent runaway warming with catastrophic effects.

“I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back at school on the other side of the ocean,” said Thunberg, 16, who has become the global face of a growing youth movement against climate inaction that mobilized millions in a worldwide strike on Friday.

“You come to us young people for hope. How dare you?” she thundered, her voice at times breaking with emotion.

Matters did not improve much as a succession of national leaders took to the podium saying they understood the gravity of the situation but then failing to announce concrete plans.

Environmental and campaign groups reacted with almost unanimous disappointment.

“I think Greta’s impassioned cry for sanity and for actually listening and acting based on the science was ignored,” Greenpeace International chief Jennifer Morgan told AFP.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump, who briefly attended the meeting, stirred up fresh outrage on social media Monday with a tweet mocking Greta Thunberg.

“She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!” climate-skeptic Trump tweeted a few hours later, alongside a clip of the speech.

The trolling of the teen activist -- who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism -- racked up more than 16,000 responses in three hours, many of them attacking the US president.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said progress was being made as the climate summit wrapped up in New York.

“Action by action the tide is turning,” Guterres said. “But we have a long way to go. We are not yet there.”

Guterres listed 77 countries that had committed to carbon neutrality by 2050, although those countries combined produce significantly less than half the world’s carbon dioxide emissions.

Seventy nations also pledged to do more to fight climate change, 100 business leaders promised to join the green economy and one-third of the global banking sector signed up to green goals.

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