Greta Thunberg accuses governments of exploiting loopholes on climate action
Climate activist Greta Thunberg hit out in a video message on Saturday at the “distant, hypothetical targets being set” by governments responding to the climate crisis.
Accusing global leaders of using “empty words” as the world was speeding in the wrong generation, she said five years since the Paris Agreement was adopted by 196 countries “the action needed is still nowhere in sight”.
Addressing her 10.5 million Instagram followers in advance of the UN climate action summit, she urged them to fight to halt the average rise in world temperatures to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels; the key target of the climate pact.
The current rate of global greenhouse gas emissions meant “our remaining CO2 budget of 1.5 degrees will be gone within seven years”, she warned.
“When it comes to the immediate action we need, we are still in a state of complete denial as we waste our time creating new loopholes with empty words.”
The five years since the Paris accord were the five hottest years ever recorded and in light of this she urged people to take action, and stop “living as if there was no tomorrow”.
“We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis,” she underlined – and urged people to unite and spread awareness.
Thunberg concluded the address on a more positive note saying: “There is hope…we are the hope we, the people.”
During the virtual summit, she tweeted: “The ‘net’ in ‘net-zero emissions’ could be among the greatest – and most dangerous – loopholes ever created. The fact that our governments are using the same language as the worlds most polluting fossil fuel companies really says it all.”
The climate NGO 350.org said the point had been reached when financial institutions and governments needed to commit to ending fossil fuel finance. “No money for fossil fuels means no new dirty projects, less pollution, lives saved, sacred lands protected, and a chance to avoid breaching 1.5 degrees and prevent further climate disasters,” its director May Boeve said.
She added: “It’s time to make fossil fuels history by cutting off their lifeline – money. Instead of funding the big polluters that destroy our climate, money needs to flow into solutions that benefit people.
“In the midst of a health and economic emergency, in a world that needs a just recovery from the pandemic, that money must be invested in healthier and more equitable jobs, community-owned renewable energy, climate-resilient public transit and housing, and care and repair for communities most impacted.”
Reacting to the summit, Christian Aid’s climate lead Dr Kat Kramer said it was good to see world leaders announcing revised national climate plans as part of the Paris deal.
“As we mark the fifth anniversary of the accord it’s significant to see that, despite Donald Trump’s attempts to undermine it, there remains so many other heads of state that want to step up and take action to address the climate crisis,” she added.
“In the same way that the Paris Agreement has proved resilient, this weekend’s summit has shown it is also dynamic. The pledges made in Paris in 2015 were a welcome first step but only put us on track to a world of 3 degree [RISE]. What made the Paris Agreement fit for purpose was the requirement for countries to strengthen these pledges at least every five years and it’s good to see so many doing just that,” she said.
Although more than 70 world leaders made new commitments, it still left many more that are yet to do so, she noted. “It’s shameful that major fossil fuel-producing countries like Russia, Saudi Arabia and Australia have so far failed to come forward with new pledges and risk catastrophe for themselves and vulnerable communities around the world.”
With countries both rich and poor committing to new climate plans, “these rich polluters have no excuse to continue to bury their heads in the sand. Their new year’s resolution should be to rectify this as soon as possible in 2021”.
She added that ahead of the COP26 summit next year, richer countries needed to deliver on their previous climate finance commitments. “The UK government along with other rich countries have promised to deliver $100 billion of climate finance annually by 2020 to help climate vulnerable countries. This promise remains unfulfilled. The UK government must use its leadership to mobilise resources, starting by stepping up its own climate finance commitments,” Dr Kramer insisted.
Meanwhile, the head of the International Monetary Fund said actions to tackle climate change offer “tremendous opportunities for jobs and sustainable growth”.
Kristalina Georgieva told the summit: “A combination of carbon pricing, a near-term green investment push and policies to compensate affected people in parts of the economy could achieve emissions reductions and increase climate resilience while delivering about 0.7 per cent higher GDP over 50 years.”
The recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic could also help accelerate the changes, she believed. By coordinating their green recovery strategies, countries could boost GDP by two-thirds more than if they act alone, Ms Georgieva predicted.
Countries must harness the “firepower” of the financial sector through full disclosure of climate-related financial risk, she added, and through policies that “nurture green finance”.