Pope Francis, Greta Thunberg blast world’s ‘weak’ climate action

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 24 2019 07:12 AM | Updated as of Sep 24 2019 10:10 AM

Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg watches as US President Donald Trump enters the United Nations to speak with reporters in a still image from video taken in New York City, US on Sept. 23, 2019. Andrew Hofstetter, Reuters

NEW YORK, United States—An angry and emotional Greta Thunberg berated older generations as she spoke before the United Nations Climate Action Summit Monday.

Her speech was punctuated by her frustration over the inaction to address climate change. 

“How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones,” the 16-year-old climate activist said before delegates from different countries. 

“People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”

Thunberg’s speech set the tone of the climate action summit, which is meant to boost climate commitments of countries in time for the 2020 deadline of the Paris agreement. 

The agreement aims to curb global heating to at least 2 degrees Celsius in order to combat climate change.

Thunberg, who was the face of the global youth climate strikes last Friday, called the goal of cutting carbon emissions in half in 10 years as unacceptable, especially since young people like her will have to live with its consequences.

“How dare you pretend that this can be solved with business-as-usual and some technical solutions?” she said.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis said in a video message that country pledges were still inadequate.

“Four years after that historic agreement (Paris 2015), we can see that the commitments made by states are still very weak,” he said. “Indeed they are far from achieving the objectives set.”

Pope Francis said it was “necessary to ask whether there is a real political will to allocate greater human, financial and technological resources to mitigate the negative effects of climate change and to help the poorest and most vulnerable populations, who suffer the most.”

"While the situation is not good and the planet is suffering, the window of opportunity is still open," the pope added. 

ACTION SUMMIT

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the Climate Action Summit is not for talking or negotiations but action. 

He acknowledged the failure of his generation “in its responsibility to protect our planet.”

“That must change,” he said.

Guterres, who spoke before Thunberg and the other youth activists, repeatedly referred to the calls of young people.

“I believe it's the duty of all decision makers in the world, not only to listen to the voice of young people and to do what they ask us to do, but also to support them in their own action for climate action around the world."

He also did not mince words when it came to countries that receive money from fossil fuel companies or those that construct more coal plants.

“Is it common sense to build ever more coal plants that are choking our future?Is it common sense to reward pollution that kills millions with dirty air and makes it dangerous for people in cities around the world to sometimes even venture out of their homes?” he said.

The main point of the summit was the commitments announced by various world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel who pledged that her country will become carbon neutral by 2050 and Indian Prime Minister Narendran Modi’s target to further increase their renewable energy goals.

“In 2030 we want to get two-thirds of our energy from renewables,” Merkel said. “In 2022 we will phase out the last of our nuclear power plants, and at latest, in 2038 we will phase out coal.”

According to the World Resources Institute, there are now 65 nations that committed to enhancing their climate goals for 2020. This does not include the Philippines.

During the climate finance session, French President Emmanuel Macron asked other countries to increase their contributions to the Green Climate Fund after the United States withdrew from it. 

Incidentally, US President Donald Trump, who was expected to skip the event as he did with other previous climate meetings, managed to drop by the opening session.

He listened to Modi and stayed for 14 minutes. 

The rest of the one-day summit will be filled with speeches from other world leaders and side events like press conferences from country coalitions.

As for the Philippines, the government did not send any of its cabinet members to what the Climate Change Commission (CCC) calls a historic summit.

Instead, attending the event are one official each from the Department of Foreign Affairs and the National Economic and Development Authority and three advisors from the CCC.

Civil society groups have expressed concern over the seeming lack of interest of interest of the Philippine government in actually participating in negotiations. It has also yet to update its climate commitments, which is due by 2020.

While CCC Secretary Emmanuel de Guzman did not attend the summit, he sent a statement asking for climate actions that are inclusive, fair and equitable.

“Now, more than ever, developed countries must ensure the flow of climate finance towards developing countries. We hope that the summit will provide clarity and direction for achieving the climate finance goal enshrined in the Paris Agreement,” De Guzman said.

President Rodrigo Duterte has acknowledged the effects of climate change but has focused on the need for accountability of developed countries.