At the climate summit in New York, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg gave a clear message to world leaders. “How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” it sounded.
The figurehead of the global climate movement addressed a room full of world leaders at the start of the summit. “My message is that we’ll be watching you. This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here,” she started. “I should be back at school on the other side of the ocean. You come to us young people for hope. How dare you?” She fired, and “you have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”
“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words, yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering, people are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is the money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”
Just before the summit started, it became known that 66 countries had signed up to the objective of climate neutrality by 2050. Together with ten regions, 102 cities and 93 companies, they want to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions.
Scientists have set this objective to keep global warming within the limits of the Paris Agreement in 2015. The temperature should rise by less than 2 degrees Celsius by the end of this century compared to the pre-industrial era.
“The urgency of the climate is a race that we are losing, but we can still win,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
According to the UN, 68 countries have committed themselves to change their climate plans by 2020 officially. By then, the 195 signatories to the Paris Agreement must put new commitments on the table. Thirty countries also belong to an alliance that promises to stop building coal plants from 2020 onwards.
Russia is also committed
In Russia, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree committing the country to the Paris Agreement. “We will reduce air pollution and create forests,” it sounds. “For people who live in regions with permafrost, this is also a matter of safety. Climate change thaws the soil there.”
How Russia will reduce CO2 emissions is as yet unclear. The country, which mainly lives off its gas and oil reserves, is one of the countries with the highest carbon dioxide emissions.
In 2015, more than 170 countries signed the Paris climate agreement. However, a lot has happened since then. The United States will step out of the climate agreement next year and elsewhere, the measures have not always been implemented decisively. According to the UN, current levels point more towards global climate warming of 3 degrees. Moreover, the countries were able to set their climate objectives, aviation or shipping – two of the most polluting sectors – were not mentioned and the agreement is binding, but not enforceable with sanctions.
China committed itself to at least reduce emissions by 2030. That must succeed, say, climate experts. For example, the country has already invested heavily in solar energy. At the same time, China wants 20 percent of its energy consumption to come from non-fossil fuels. That may be more difficult, undoubtedly because it still relies on coal-fired power stations. According to the website climateactiontracker.org, the country may not achieve its objectives and Chinese policy is more likely to move towards more than 3 degrees Celsius warming by 2100.
Then the European Union is in a better position. The EU wants a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, compared to the reference year 1990. According to the European Commission, that target would be effortlessly exceeded: the elected President, Ursula von der Leyen, wants 50 or even 55 percent. At the same time, the Member States should be climate neutral by 2050, although Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Estonia are struggling. The EU, on the other hand, is lagging in the transport sector. For the time being, efforts are more likely to point in the direction of warming of more than 2 degrees.
India wants a share of 40 percent energy consumption from non-fossil fuels by 2030. The country is already investing a great deal in solar energy for this and, according to climatactiontracker.org, could even achieve that objective in 2020. With its measures, the country may remain below 2 degrees of warming, but it does have plans to build new coal-fired power stations.
The United States and Russia are completely behind in the ranking of superpowers. The American promises date back to the era of Barack Obama, the predecessor of current President Donald Trump. It then promised to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent by 2025 compared to 2005. But Trump has announced that the US will step out of the agreement in 2020. He also reversed numerous climate measures from his predecessor, such as emission standards for vehicles or support for coal-fired power stations. With US policy we are moving in the direction of plus 4 degrees of warming by 2100. Russia is also at that level, just like Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Ukraine.
Bhutan and Surinam already carbon neutral
So there is still some work to be done for the most prominent players, certainly in comparison with Bhutan and Suriname, which are already carbon neutral. Norway wants a carbon-neutral economy by 2030, Sweden by 2045 and the United Kingdom by 2050. Such a proposal is also on the table in France, although the Senate has to vote on it by the end of September.