NewsThe climate emergency and the next generation

The climate emergency and the next generation


Tens of thousands of young people took to the streets yesterday to deliver a clear message to world leaders: act now to save our planet and our future from the climate emergency.

These students have understood something that many older people do not seem to understand: we are risking our lives in a race against time and we are losing. The opportunity is fading; Time is a luxury we can no longer afford, and delaying action on climate change is almost as dangerous as denying it exists.

My generation has failed to react to the enormous challenge of climate change and young people feel it deeply; They do not lack reasons to be angry.

Despite years of talking about the problem, global emissions are reaching record levels and showing no sign of peaking. Today we have the highest concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in 3 million years. The last four years were the four warmest years on record, and winter temperatures in the Arctic have risen by 3°C since 1990. Sea levels are rising, coral reefs are dying, and we are beginning to see repercussions from climate change that can endanger health through air pollution, heat waves and risks to food safety.

Fortunately, we have the Paris Agreement, a visionary, workable and far-sighted regulatory framework outlining exactly what to do to curb climate disruption and reverse its effects. But the agreement itself is a dead letter if it is not accompanied by ambitious measures.

That’s why this year I’m bringing world leaders together at the Climate Action Summit. I call on all leaders to come to New York in September with concrete and realistic plans to improve their Nationally Determined Contributions by 2020, in line with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 % in the next decade and zero by 2050.

The Summit will bring together governments, the private sector, civil society, local administrations and other international organizations to prepare ambitious solutions in six areas: renewable energy, emissions reduction, sustainable infrastructure, sustainable agriculture and management of forests and oceans, resilience to the effects of climate change and investment in the green economy.

The latest analysis shows that if we act now, we can reduce carbon emissions in 12 years and limit global warming to 1.5°. But if we don’t change course, the consequences are unpredictable.

Although climate action is indispensable to combat an existential threat, it also comes at a cost. Action plans must not leave a balance of winners and losers or accentuate economic inequality, they must be

just transitions and create new opportunities for those who lose out, in the context of a just transition.

We have companies on our side. Accelerated solutions to climate change can strengthen our economies and create jobs, while achieving cleaner air, preserving natural habitats and biodiversity, and protecting the environment.

With new technologies and engineering solutions, energy is already being produced at a lower cost than in the fossil fuel economy. Solar power and onshore wind are now the cheapest sources of new wholesale energy in virtually all major economies. But we have to implement a radical change.

To do this, we must stop subsidizing fossil fuels and high-emission agriculture and switch to renewable energy, electric vehicles, and climate-friendly practices. Carbon prices need to be set that reflect the true cost of emissions, from climate risk to health hazards from air pollution. We must also accelerate the rate of closure of coal plants and replace those jobs with healthier alternatives so that the transformation is fair, inclusive and profitable.

This proposal is gaining momentum: people are paying attention and there is a new determination to fulfill the promise of the Paris Agreement. The Climate Summit must be the starting point to build the future we need.

In closing, I have a message for the boys and girls who demonstrated yesterday. I know that young people can and do change the world.

Today, many young people think about the future with anxiety and fear, and I understand your concerns and your anger. But I know that humanity is capable of great achievements. Your voices give me hope. The more I perceive your commitment and activism, the more confident I am that we are going to win. Together, with your help and thanks to your efforts, we can and must overcome this threat and create a cleaner, safer and greener world for all.

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