Voices of young climate action activists ‘give me hope’ says UN chief

UNFCCC Youth attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany. Photo/UNFCCC

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


In the wake of Friday’s demonstrations by schoolchildren across the world against climate change inaction, the UN Secretary-General has said he understands their fears, but is hopeful for the future.

In a direct message to the youth activists who took to the streets, UN chief António Guterres said that he understood the anxiety and “fear for the future” behind their actions but added that “humankind is capable of enormous achievements. Your voices give me hope.”

Writing in an opinion piece for The Guardian, Mr. Guterres said that the more he witnessed the “commitment and activism” of young people who were fed up with the pace of the international response to global warming, “the more confident I am that we will win. Together, with your help and thanks to your efforts, we can and must beat this threat and create a cleaner, safer, greener world for everyone,” he added.

“These schoolchildren have grasped something that seems to elude many of their elders”, he said, adding that “we are in a race for our lives, and we are losing. The window of opportunity is closing; we no longer have the luxury of time, and climate delay is almost as dangerous as climate denial.”

The Secretary-General acknowledged that his older generation “has failed to respond properly to the dramatic challenge of climate change.  This is deeply felt by young people. No wonder they are angry.”

Global emissions are reaching record levels, and continuing to rise, he said, adding that concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is the highest it has been in 3 million years.

“The last four years were the four hottest on record, and winter temperatures in the Arctic have risen by 3°C since 1990,” he added, noting also rising sea levels, the death of coral reefs, and a growing threat to human health worldwide, as made clear in the UN’s Global Environmental Outlook, published this week.

The historic 2015 Paris Agreement signed by more than 190 countries to keep global emissions well below 2°C, “itself is meaningless without ambitious action,” said the UN chief.

“That is why I am bringing world leaders together at a Climate Action Summit later this year. I am calling on all leaders to come to New York in September with concrete, realistic plans to enhance their nationally determined contributions by 2020, in line with reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent over the next decade, and to net zero by 2050.”

The latest analysis shows that if we act now, we can reduce carbon emissions within 12 years and limit global warming to 1.5°” said Mr. Guterres. “But if we continue along our current path, the consequences are impossible to predict.”

“Momentum is building:, he added, “people are listening and there is a new determination to unleash the promise of the Paris Agreement. The Climate Summit must be the starting point to build the future we need.”

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