Global Climate Strike sparks hope for humanity

Children at the forefront of global climate strike in Melbourne. (Photo: R. Dela Rosa Yoon)

Millions of people across the world joined the Global Climate Strikes held on September 20-27 to urge action to stop climate breakdown following the IPCC report in October last year saying that humanity has 12 years left to stop dangerous carbon emissions level. The strikes were the biggest climate protests in history, bigger than the march before the ratification of the 2015 Paris Agreement drawing people from all ages and demographics.The strikes were held ahead and in time of UN Climate Action Summit in New York.

Since the Paris deal, people have sustained momentum in calling on governments to step up action on reducing greenhouses gases in order to limit the global temperature to 1.5C, but the sight of young people rising and boycotting schools amplifies the urgency of the issue.

Sparked by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish girl, the youth movement has exploded to exponential numbers to include young people from all points of the globe – from the Pacific islands through Australia, across Asia and Africa, into Europe and onwards to the Americas.

About 185 countries where demonstrations took place had their individual targets– from rising sea levels in the Solomon Islands to toxic waste in South Africa, air pollution and plastic waste in India and coal expansion in Australia.

But the overall message was unified – a powerful demand for an urgent action to cut emissions and to stabilise the climate.

Who is Greta Thunberg?

She is a Swedish girl who, on August 20, 2018, started skipping school and staged her solo protest at the Swedish Parliament. Under her arm she carried a wooden placard with a handwritten words “SKOLSTREJK FOR KLIMATET” (School Strike For Climate). She did not realise that the single act would change her life creating ripples to change the course of history.

The Swedish media started noticing here. Others would soon to follow. International newspapers and magazines write about her.

After a few weeks, Thunberg became the icon of youth activism. Among the highlights include:

  • She addressed the European Economic and Social Committee in February

  • She spoke at a gathering to 25,000 at Berlin”s Brandenburg Gate in March

  • Talked to EU leaders at the European Parliament in Strasbourg in April

  • She became the cover of Time Magazine, May 27, 2019 Edition

  • Visited the Austrian World Summit in May where she met with Hollywood star Arnold Schwarzenegger, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres and Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen,

  • She was a guest at the US House of Representatives Select Committee on the Climate Crisis September 18

  • She sailed to New York to attend the Global Climate Strike on September 20 before attending the Climate Action Summit two days later.

US President Donald Trump tweeted a video of her opening remarks and commented sarcastically: “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!” Greta paid him back in the same coin, changing her Twitter profile to describe herself as “a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future”. Read more here.

What is the UN Climate Action Summit?

The Summit aimed at bringing together governments, the private sector, civil society, local authorities and other international organizations to develop ambitious solutions in six areas: a global transition to renewable energy; sustainable and resilient infrastructures and cities; sustainable agriculture and management of forests and oceans; resilience and adaptation to climate impacts; and alignment of public and private finance with a net zero economy.

This means ending subsidies for fossil fuels and high-emitting agriculture and shifting towards renewable energy, electric vehicles and climate-smart practices. It means carbon pricing that reflects the true cost of emissions, from climate risk to the health hazards of air pollution. And it means accelerating the closure of coal plants and halting the construction of new ones and replacing jobs with healthier alternatives so that the transformation is just, inclusive and profitable.

Snapshot for a child in a stroller. (Photo: R. Dela Rosa Yoon)

Action Porfolios

In order to ensure that the transformative actions in the real economy are as impactful as possible, the Secretary-General has prioritized the following action portfolios, which are recognized as having high potential to curb greenhouse gas emissions and increased global action on adaptation and resilience.

Youth Climate Summit

The UN Youth Climate Summit was a platform for young leaders who are driving climate action to showcase their solutions and to meaningfully engage with decision-makers on the defining issue of the time.

The summit, held on September 21, featured a full-day of programming that brought together young activists, innovators, entrepreneurs, and change-makers who are committed to combating climate change at the pace and scale needed to meet the challenge. It was action oriented, intergenerational, and inclusive, with equal representation of young leaders from all walks of life.

(Photo: R. Dela Rosa Yoon)

For free photos on Global Climate Strike in Melbourne, contact The Green Journal AU.

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What is UN Climate Action Summit?

The United Nations General Assembly

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Australia disappoints at global climate talks, grassroots take action

As the UNFCCC Conference of Parties 19 (COP 19) wraps up in Warsaw, Poland, close to a thousand activists have walked out , grossly disappointed with the results.

The rift between rich and poor nations intensified with no major compromise on key issues. Many developed countries turned their backs from their commitments,  including emission caps and funding mechanisms.

Oxfam International, joined by more than a dozen of civic international groups, released a statement saying the Warsaw Conference saw participants with conflicting interests. More notably, the interests of dirty energy industries were more visible than that of global citizens – with a “Coal & Climate Summit” being held in conjunction. It said corporate sponsorship from big-time polluters could be seen everywhere and that the Poland Presidency that is beholden to the coal and fracking industry.

Members of civil society movements walk out out of the U.N. talks on global warming held at the National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland on Thursday. Pic: AP.

From day one, Australia showed no interest to take part in the climate event; it did not send a minister representative. The Tony Abbott coalition government instead prioritised the repeal the carbon tax at its first parliamentary session. As the Warsaw Conference ends, the carbon tax repeal has already passed the Lower House, although it is still to go before the Senate.

The Climate Action Tracker (CAT) gave Australia a high ranking for creating the framework for strong action when it introduced the carbon tax in 2011. The CAT saw the new climate legislation as a historic breakthrough for the nation – putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions ranks alongside any of the “big” reforms of the past 30 years.

The CAT said the study is the first of a series of independent, science-based country assessments looking at each country’s international climate change action, comparing it to its pledge and to what’s needed to keep global warming to below 2°C (and 1.5°C, as called for by the most vulnerable countries).

In Doha last year, Australia made a non-binding pledge to reduce emissions by 5% on 2000 levels by 2020, irrespective of international action, and said it will reduce emission levels by 15-25% from 2000 levels by 2020 if other countries make significant commitments.

Greg Combet, then Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, told delegates at CarbonExpo in Melbourne on November 9, 2012 that Australia would sign on to a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol with specific conditions.

Most Australian economists agree that the country cannot achieve its voluntary target of reducing emissions by 5 per cent by 2020 without industry paying a price on carbon.

Under the new Abbott Government, however, the CAT ranked Australia’s climate change efforts as inadequate.

The CAT said repealing the carbon tax would dismantle most of the present policy framework, including present fixed carbon prices and the cap-and-trade system put in place in 2011.

The CAT speculates

Australian Coalition Government at present does not have the majority in the Senate for repeal and will not do so until at least July 2014, after which time it will need to be negotiated with minor Parties to achieve this. However, the Government has insisted that it will call a fresh general election should the Senate not support repeal.  Given this situation, it is clear that the present assessment may not stand, given the significant chance that present policies could be dropped or not implemented. The new Government has committed only AU$3.2 billion (capped) to meet the 5% reduction target and has indicated that no further funding will be made available should this fall short of meeting this goal. Several analyses indicate that this so-called ‘Direct Action’ policy will fall far short of the 5% goal.

Australia was already mocked for garnering the most Fossil of the Day awards during the summit. It has so far won half of the “illustrious accolades”, handed out on each day of negotiations by the Climate Action Network to the country who has done most to block progress at the UN climate negotiations.

During one of the sessions, Australia’s team was accused of lacking respect after delegates turned up to critical discussions wearing shorts and teeshirts. They also “gorged on snacks” during negotiations on whether developed states should make reparations to vulnerable countries as the impacts of climate change become more severe, according to a spokesperson for CAN International. Their behaviour caused over 130 developing nations to abandon discussions on the controversial issue of climate compensation at 4am last night.

Abbott is pushing to scrap the carbon tax following an election campaign promise. Repealing the carbon is an effort to keep Australia’s businesses competitive in the world market. The Australian noted Abbott saying:

… without the carbon and mining taxes, “and without the sovereign risk issues that this government has created”, Australia would once again be among “the most attractive places in the world to invest”.”The Olympic Dam mine expansion, Port Hedland Harbour expansion, and the Browse gas-field development can’t be guaranteed to go ahead — but they can almost certainly be guaranteed not to proceed while the carbon tax, mining tax and job-destroying industrial regulation remain in place.”Mr Abbott, who has threatened a double dissolution election if the Coalition’s repeal of the carbon tax is frustrated in the Senate, was “confident” Labor would learn the lessons of an election defeat.

A banner at Treasury Gardens in Melbourne during the National Day of Climate Action. (Photo: R. Yoon/the Green Journal)

Abbott abolished the Australia Climate Commission shortly after he took office in September. The Commission was set up to advise on the science and economics of carbon pricing.

Greens and grassroots movements have taken action in response to the new government’s actions. The National Day of Climate Action (November 17) saw more than 60,000 people gather in major cities and towns nationwide to urge the government to take action on climate change. The event was organised by GetUp, Australia Youth Climate Coalition, and the Australian Conservation Foundation.

GetUp supporters raise banners in Melbourne. (Photo: R. Yoon/The Green Journal)

“60,000 Australians from every corner of our sunburnt (and, in places, rain-soaked) country came together for climate action on Sunday, and as climate activists we’re now being described as ‘Abbott’s Worst Enemy’,” GetUp said.

GetUp is now spearheading a drive to raise $22m to keep up the fight.

 If we are going to keep up the fight, we need the resources to keep going. If all of us who came chipped in just $1 a day we’d have $22 million to fund a campaign for climate action – matching what the mining industry has spent to stop climate action. We have to step up and fight even harder on climate change. We believe that means we need a movement of people who are connected, empowered, inspired and informed. GetUp’s infrastructure allows us to connect and empower.

More photos: National Day of Climate Action (Melbourne)

Blog Link: The Green Journal at Asian Correspondent