In 2015, nearly 200 countries came to an agreement and signed the Paris Agreement in an effort to take global action against climate change. The document outlines measures needed to be made by the signing countries to keep temperatures from rising “well below” 2°C, and to keep them to below 1.5°C increase. Participating nations agree to move towards limiting carbon emissions from human activities to levels that can naturally be absorbed by trees and plants between 2050 and 2100. The agreement also mandates that every five years, each country’s contribution to cutting emissions must be reviewed. Finally, it stipulates that wealthier countries must help finance climate initiatives for poorer countries.
It has been four years since the Paris Agreement, and some countries are not living up to their promise. For the last year, the youth have been protesting louder than ever about the damage our world leaders are letting happen to our planet. On September 23rd, the UN held a climate summit in New York; among the speakers was Greta Thunberg, one of the lead youth activists. She opened the Summit with a moving speech, rebuking the world leaders, “This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you have come to us young people for hope. How dare you. You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”
The ‘empty words’ that Thunberg is referring to may be the signed Paris Agreement that 195 countries signed. Only 66 countries were represented at the Climate Summit on the 23rd. The United States, the second largest polluter, was not even represented. The U.S. President, Donald Trump, has blatantly stated numerous times that he believes that climate change is a “Chinese hoax.” He declined to attend the Climate Summit, though he ended up making a surprise visit. Trump listened to Angela Merkel’s speech, but left after only 15 minutes. He has also announced that he plans on revoking the U.S. commitment from the Paris Agreement. Later, he mocked Thunberg with a sarcastic reply to a video of her speech on Twitter.
However, not everything was so grim. France declared it will not enter into any trade agreements with countries that have policies opposing the climate agreement. Germany committed to carbon neutrality by 2050. India announced its commitment to increasing renewable energy. China pledged to cut its emissions by over 12 billion tons annually. The EU stated that 25% of its next budget will be devoted to climate-related activities. Russia ratified the Paris Agreement. Finally, Pakistan declared the country will plant 10 billion trees (there are an estimated 390 billion trees in the Amazon rainforest to put this in perspective) over the next five years. Many other commitments were made; however, the countries listed above include some of the top pollutants today.
As a people of this planet, we need to speak up. There is no doubt that the Global Climate Strike on September 20th affected the commitments made during the Summit on September 23rd. If we are to save our world, the fight for climate action must continue to show the world leaders that no country’s economy will matter if there is no world for it to compete in. We are in this together, regardless of political views, gender, age, race, or social-economic status.
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Photo: UN/Loey Felipe