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New York, U.S.A – September 23, 2019: 10.45pm (Nuku’alofa Times/Media): The UN Climate Action Summit drew its fair share of controversy today here at the UN General Assembly Hall as world leaders, youths, Non Government Organisations and the private sector go together to find ‘action pathways’.

First it was US President Donald Trump who crashed party when he turned up and sat at the America’s allocated seat, along with Vice President Mike Pence.

They were not invited to attend as President Trump is known to be the biggest climate change denier, following statements he had made in 2017, claiming climate change is not real.

The US President and his Vice President at the Climate Action Summit

President Trump and his Vice stayed for about 15 minutes and heard Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel speak.

The President and his Vice were invited to speak at the Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom event, which was happening simultaneously.

He told the CNN’s Jim Acosta, when asked why he attended the UN summit after all, that “I’m a big believer in clean air and clean water, and all countries should get together and do that, and they should do it for themselves. Very, very important”.

The second was when young activist Greta Thunberg told world leaders “My message is that we’ll be watching you”.

She stared at President Trump when he entered the UN General Assembly meeting hall – and gave him a look that could have killed the President if looks could really kill. 

Leaders warned

In a moving speech she slammed world leaders for their inaction and said they had failed the future generation.

Her speech echoed all over the world in the last 10 hours as media personnel covering the event sent their stories around the globe.

“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you?,” she said.

“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering, people are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are at the beginning of a mass extinction, and you can only talk about money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you?

“For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away? And come here saying you are doing enough when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight?

“You say you hear us and you understand the urgency, but no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that, because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe.

“The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in ten years only gives us a 50% chance of staying below 1.5 degrees and the risk of setting off uncontrollable chain reactions beyond human control. 50% may be acceptable to you, but those numbers do not include tipping points, feedback loops, additional pollution, or the aspects of equity and climate justice. They also rely on my generation sucking hundreds to billions of tons of your CO-2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist. So a 50% risk is simply not acceptable to us, we who have to live with the consequences. To have a 67% chance of staying below a 1.5-degree temperature rise, the best odds given by the IPCC, the world had 420 gigatons of CO-2 left to admit back on January 1, 2018. Today that figure is only down to less than 350 gigatons.

“How dare you say this can be solved with just business as usual and some technical solutions? With today’s emissions levels, that remaining CO-2 budget will be entirely gone within less than 8.5 years. There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures here today, because these numbers are too uncomfortable and you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is.

“You are failing us but the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you. We will not let you get away with this. Right here and right now is where we draw the line.

Summit mission 

The Summit attracted around 100 world leaders.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres organized the summit to work with countries see what acions are need now to slow the effects of climate change.

“I am appealing for leadership from politicians, from businesses and scientists and from the public everywhere,” Mr Guterres said. “We face a direct existential threat. Climate change is moving faster than we are.”

Countries that didn’t have a climate action plan prepared for the summit — including Japan, South Africa, and Australia — were encouraged not to speak. Others like Saudi Arabia and Brazil chose not to take part whatsoever.

Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama also spoke at the event.

Other Pacific leaders also spoke at different discussions and meetings during the day.

Meanwhile, Pacific leaders are also united in their call for action to be taken now.

Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing States and Small Island Developing States (OHRLLS) are also backing immediate action as they face the most challenges from climate change.

Leaders of these countries are keen to see how the SAMOA Pathway can be bettered as the guiding light for them in the campaign to meet Sustainable Development Goals and ensure economic development.

The SAMOA Pathway Mid-Term Review will be held on Friday at the UN.

NOTE: Iliesa Tora’s presence at the UN Climate Summit has been made possible with funding from the UN-OHRLLS/Islands Voices Campaign and the Forum Secretariat (PIFS).


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