NEW YORK, New York, September 23, 2019 (ENS) – Speaking at the opening of the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit on Monday, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, 16, was blunt in her criticism of world leaders, telling them that they are still “not mature enough to tell it like it is.”

Thunberg

Greta Thunberg of Sweden started the Fridays for Future climate action movement in 2018 by leaving school on Fridays to sit outside the Swedish Parliament urging immediate action. Sept. 23, 2019 (Photo courtesy UN)

“You are failing us,” Thunberg told world leaders in a five-minute speech. “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, I say, we will never forgive you.”

Thunberg was speaking directly to dozens of heads of state and government, business leaders, and senior representatives from civil society from around the world, who lined up to promise far-reaching steps to beat climate change, at the day-long event, held at the UN’s New York headquarters.

Launching the Summit this morning, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “We have had enough talk. This is not a climate negotiation summit. You don’t negotiate with nature. This is a climate action summit.”

Guterres stressed the urgency and importance of the situation, describing human-made climate change as an existential threat and warning, “If we don’t urgently change our way of life, we jeopardize life itself.”

“Nature is angry,” he said, “and we fool ourselves if we think we can fool nature because nature always strikes back – and around the world, nature is striking back with fury.”

In the run-up to the Summit, scientists issued a report of potentially catastrophic global warming, warning that climate change is “hitting harder and sooner” than forecast.

The report from the world’s top climate science organizations, titled “United in Science,” was coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization. It presents a “transparent envelope” of authoritative and actionable cutting-edge science.

fire

A wildfire consumes the forest in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA, August 23, 2019 (Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service)

They report that the average global temperature for 2015–2019 is on track to be the warmest of any equivalent period on record. It is currently estimated to be 1.1°Celsius (± 0.1°C) above pre-industrial times.

Levels of the main long-lived greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) have reached new highs, the scientists warn.

There is a continued decrease of sea ice and ice mass, the scientists report. Overall, the amount of ice lost annually from the Antarctic ice sheet increased at least six-fold between 1979 and 2017. Glacier mass loss for 2015-2019 is the highest for any five-year period on record.

The largest glacier in the Swiss Alps, the Aletschgletscher, is melting rapidly and could disappear altogether by 2100, the scientists warn.

Bahamas

With a force multiplied by global warming, Hurricane Dorian smashed the Bahamas, Sept. 4, 2019 (Photo by Seaman Erik Villa Rodriguez / U.S. Coast Guard)

Sea-level rise is accelerating, seawater is becoming more acidic. There has been an overall increase of 26 percent in ocean acidity since the beginning of the industrial era.

Widespread and long-lasting heatwaves, record-breaking fires and other devastating events such as tropical cyclones, floods, and drought have had major impacts on socio-economic development and the environment.

The scientists warn that if countries do not raise the ambition underlying their Nationally Determined Contributions immediately and back it up by action, “exceeding the 1.5°C goal under the Paris Agreement on climate can no longer be avoided. “If the emissions gap is not closed by 2030, it is very plausible that the goal of a well-below 2°C temperature increase is also out of reach.”

With these facts as part of the public dialogue, unprecedented public demonstrations for climate action began last week and will continue all this week.

Guterres

At the Climate Action Summit UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres voices stern warnings as well as hope for the future, Sept. 23, 2019 (Photo courtesy UN)

And there has been a steady drumbeat of pressure from Secretary-General Guterres, who demanded that world leaders come to New York with “bold action and much greater ambition.” Click here to hear his entire speech.

The fact that so many governments, cities, and businesses attended the Climate Action Summit with enhanced climate commitments was a testament, said Secretary-General Guterres, to their leadership, and investment in a green future.

The secretary-general declared that he has hope that the enormous global challenge of climate change can be overcome.

The solutions and technology already exist, he said, to deal with more than 70 percent of today’s emissions. But these solutions need to be implemented, and this will require “fundamental transformations in all aspects of society,” particularly the ways in which we grow food, use land, fuel our transport and power our economies,” Guterres told the audience of world leaders.

He went on to call for an end to fossil fuel subsidies and for countries to shift taxes from salaries to carbon.

Throughout the day, delegates explained what they were doing to better adapt to climate change, cut emissions, and improve on the commitments that they all made under the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

President Sebastián Piñera of Chile, where the UN will hold its annual climate negotiation summit this year, announced the creation of a Climate Ambition Alliance, bringing together countries prepared to commit to enhanced action by 2020, and work towards achieving zero net carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.

This group currently comprises 65 countries, 10 regions, 102 cities, 93 businesses, and 12 investors.

To shift the world away from its current dependence on fossil fuels, the Powering Past Coal Alliance has been expanded to include 30 countries, 22 states or regions, and 31 corporations committed to spotting the building of new coal power plants in 2020 and rapidly transitioning to renewable energy.

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