Youth protest climate inaction at UN climate talks

Security officers block access to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP25) plenary hall in Madrid on Wednesday (12/12/2019), following a demonstration by hundreds of youths and activists who staged a sit-in protest to express their disappointment with the lack of progress in the climate negotiations. Photo: Ahmad Arif
Kompas
,
Madrid

Youth protest climate inaction at UN climate talks

Demonstrators, some wearing the traditional dress of their homelands, shouted “Shame! Shame!” before security personnel ushered them out of the complex in Madrid where this year's annual United Nations climate change negotiations are being held. 

Mohammad Reza Sahib, National Coordinator of the People’s Coalition for the Right to Water (KRuHA) and four other Indonesian activists affiliated with the global network Demand Climate Justice (DCJ) were also escorted out of the venue. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres finally granted them access again on Thursday morning.

“A lot of people’s fear regarding global warming has reached its nadir," said Sahib. "The negotiations do not reflect that the safety of hundreds of millions of living things on earth is now at stake. We were forced out because of our peaceful protest against the slow progress in managing the climate crisis,” he said."

Although it lasted only a few minutes, the joint protest by DCJ, the Climate Action Network (CAN), Fridays for Future and other organizations represented the disappointment of millions of people, especially youth, when it comes to addressing climate change.

Ejecting the demonstrators indicated the growing divergence between the public and the negotiators that serve the political interests of their respective countries at this year's 25th Conference of Parties (COP25) to the UN climate talks.

“Attending the COP for 25 years, I’ve never seen such great discrepancy between public expectations and the reality,” Greenpeace executive director Jennifer Morgan said before government representatives at the plenary session.

Greta Thunberg, 16, who inspired the Fridays for Future student movement, reminded world leaders that the rate of climate change has reached such a dangerous stage that it necessitates immediate action.

Thunberg, named Time Magazine's 2019 "Person of the Year," directed her disappointment at wealthy countries for using excuses to avoid cutting their greenhouse gas emissions.

The Swedish teenager who refuses to travel by air or to consume meat in order to reduce climate-harming emissions, has been in the spotlight since August 2018, when at just 15 years of age, she protested for days outside the Swedish parliament. In her solo action, she appealed for greater efforts against global warming, holding up a poster that read “school strike for the climate.”

Her persistence has inspired similar student protests in many countries. Now known as Fridays for Future, the school strikes have involved millions of students.

But Thunberg’s stance has drawn personal attacks from some world leaders, such as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and US President Donald Trump.

Broadening gap

Negotiations between representatives of the 197 countries attending COP25 have entered their final days, but no significant decisions have been made or definitive language agreed upon that would advance efforts to tackle climate change.

But Thunberg and other attendees representing research institutions, environmental NGOs and scientists have highlighted the need for urgent action.

“Global warming is growing further, along with increasing emissions. The global temperature has risen by 1.1 degrees Celsius and sea temperature by 0.5 degrees Celsius since the pre-industrial era," said World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

He warned that rising atmospheric and sea temperatures would have a great impact on ecosystems, ranging from the increasing frequency and intensity of disasters to a slump in the food supply.

Ahead of COP25 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is supported by scientists from all over the world under a UN mandate, compiled a scientific synthesis, “United in Science,” which presents the latest data and scientific findings on the current state of the climate crisis.

The scientists recommended that all countries fulfill their commitments to cut emissions pursuant to the Paris Agreement of 2015. They also appealed for the emissions-reduction target to be raised, as the previous target was inadequate to curb the rate of global warming below 1.5-2 degrees Celsius as outlined in the Paris accord. At the present rate, global temperatures could rise by 3-4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, scientists estimate.

Yet in the face of these recommendations, deliberations remained hampered by politically laden disputes over the carbon market’s architecture, schedules for carbon reduction commitments and uncertainty about funding for poor countries affected by climate change.

Young people are preparing to again take to the streets in Madrid and other cities around the world this Friday to demand their right to a better future. With only one day left to the negotiations, however, hope is fading.

More protest at the last day UNFCCC-COP25, Friday (14/12). Photo: Ahmad Arif
Protestors on the last day of the UNFCCC-COP25 / Credit: Ahmad Arif 

 

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