Greta Thunberg Challenges Leaders At U.N. Climate Session And Files Climate Complaint

24 September 2019
Culture, Greta Thunberg, U.N., Climate Change
Image: Getty

The 16-year-old spoke passionately about the environment as she tried to convince politicians to take climate change seriously

Regardless of your geographical location, Friday September 20 proved a memorable occasion.

To venture outside was to see scenes that proved equally as joyful as they were saddening: hundreds of people gathered in solidarity against climate change, a crowd that defied demographics and age brackets, but encapsulated all those who feel deeply about the future of our planet.

It was largely peaceful, which in itself is remarkable considering the fact that the inaction of politicians and leaders around the world are enough to have us clambering at the wall and tearing our hair out. And while the feeling was one of hope, you couldn’t help but feel a heaviness – a sense that this shouldn’t be the case; that the scores of children and school kids taking to the streets with signs made in their classrooms shouldn’t be the ones shouldering the burden of the future of our planet.

For one 16-year-old in particular, the future of our planet is not something to keep in mind but rather a priority. Greta Thunberg pioneered the strike movement and has given a voice to an entire generation dissatisfied with the views of their leaders. As Thunberg shared images of the strike across the world – a strike that drew an estimated 4 million young adults and their supporters to the streets worldwide – it was hard not to see her impact as being one of profound change. And on Monday she continued this, filing a potentially world-changing climate complaint after speaking at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York.

In an impassion speech, Thunberg said: “This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school, on the other side of the ocean. You have stolen my dreams, my childhood with your empty words. We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line.”

She went on to add, “You all come to us young people for hope. How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words, and yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing.”

Thunberg, along with 15 other young people, filed a climate complaint that will see them sue five of the world’s major carbon polluters on the grounds that the countries are violating their rights as children. If the suit is successful, the United Nations would classify the climate crisis as a children’s rights crisis. And more importantly, it would compel Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, and Turkey – the five countries in the suit – to work with other nations to forge binding emissions’ reduction targets.

As Kirsten Davies, an international law expert at Macquarie University’s Law School in Sydney, told Earther via email: “This complaint involves young people holding their guardians, us adults, to account for failing in our ‘duty of care.’” Filed on behalf of the youth by the international law firm Hausfeld, the suit contends that world governments are violating children’s rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Citing more than 30 years’ worth of scientific studies and warnings that greenhouse gases and other factors were establishing a dangerous new environmental trend, Thunberg criticised politicians for not developing solutions and strategies to confront that threat.

“You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe.”

Thunberg then went on to detail how the current international plan is unacceptable, as it has the goal of cutting current emissions levels in half over the next 10 years. The plan, as she describes, only provides a 50 per cent chance of keeping the warming trend below 1.5 degrees Celsius. “Fifty per cent may be acceptable to you,” Thunberg said, before listing the assumptions that underlie the estimate and the challenges that could impede success.

“They also rely on my generation sucking hundreds of billions of tons of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist. So, a 50 per cent risk is simply not acceptable to us – we who have to live with the consequences.”

As politicians increasingly pretend the world’s dire climate problems can b solved with technical solutions and “business as usual,” Thunberg cited a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which concluded that for the world to preserve its best chance of meeting the 1.5-degree goal, countries had a “total carbon budget” of 420 gigatons of CO2 at the start of 2018 and shouldn’t exceed that amount.

“Today, that figure is already down to less than 350 gigatons,” said Thunberg. If current emission rates continue, the carbon budget laid out by IPCC “will be entirely gone in less than eight and a half years.” Thunberg added, “There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures here today, because these numbers are too uncomfortable and you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is.”

As Thunberg said emphatically, “You are failing us, but 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.”

Via GQ Australia