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New York at the center of the fight against climate change

September 17, 2019

Environmental activists will meet in New York on Friday for a demonstration and a youth summit, with the goal of pressuring world leaders gathered at the UN to redouble the fight against global warming.

In addition to Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, 16, who leads weekly strikes, 500 young activists from the United States, Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia will arrive in New York for the first youth summit on climate, organized on Saturday by the UN at its headquarters.

But first, on Friday, they will participate in a massive protest together.

The “Friday strikes” that Thunberg started alone last year in Stockholm, in front of the Swedish parliament, have spread worldwide, and this Friday is expected to be the biggest of them all. 

The New York City Hall, which will host several parallel events next week, authorized students to miss school to attend the protest.

 Another demonstration will take place the following Friday, September 27, during the UN General Assembly.

The images of tens of thousands of young people blocking traffic on the streets of Manhattan “through our house that is on fire” will precede the summit of the UN climate that begins on Monday, which will be attended by a hundred heads of state and  Government, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.

The president of Costa Rica, Carlos Alvarado will also be present.

Leaders subscribe to the idea of ​​a climate urgency, but activists want details about their plans, and especially the answer to two questions: when will they close their last coal plants?  And when will countries stop using other fossil energies, such as gas and oil?

– Countries to announce climate plans –

About 60 countries are preparing to announce reinforced climate plans, Alden Meyer, an expert with the US NGO Union of Concerned Scientists, told AFP, but none of the world’s largest polluters..

 “It’s a marathon, not a short run,” he said.

The true deadline is the end of 2020, when the Paris Agreement will force the signatories to review their balance sheet.  But the signals sent will be scrutinized — especially China’s. 

For now, only Morocco and the Gambia have “compatible” commitments to the objective of the 2015 Paris Agreement, according to the Climate Action Tracker, which tracks the promises.

To have a chance to curb the global warming of the planet at + 1.5ºC (in relation to the 19th century), the world should be carbon neutral by 2050, according to the latest consensus of scientists studying the issue at the request of the UN.

But we are far from that goal.  Last year, there was a rain of bad news.  Humans never threw as much carbon dioxide into the air as we did in 2018. July 2019 was the hottest month recorded on Earth since 1880. The last four years were the hottest four.

 And studies revealed that polar caps melt even faster than we thought.

– Making their voices heard –

Among the 500 young adults aged 18 to 29 who will participate in Saturday’s summit are 100 whose expenses were paid by the UN — which will also offset the carbon emissions of their air tickets. Among them are an ecological businesswoman from Mauritius and another from Indonesia, founders of environmental associations in Argentina and Guatemala, and many activists.

Joao Henrique Alves Cerqueira, 27, is a Brazilian who has been involved in several NGOs for five years.

“I am a bit skeptical, this is not my first UN conference,” he told AFP.  “But something is happening right now.”

He noted his admiration for Greta Thunberg and added that “it would be formidable if the world also heard other voices coming from the south and from indigenous communities.”

Some are involved in the mechanisms and bureaucratic jargon of international negotiations, such as the French Côme Girschig, 24.

 “Greta opened a door,” he told AFP.  “It is very good to have in the streets the youth who say they are anti-capitalist and want to change the system, but what do we implement instead?”

This moderate environmentalist is vegan and anti-aircraft, but is not absolutist.  “If everyone eats less meat once a day, it is more effective than if 5% of the population were completely vegan,” he says.

He wants the movement to abandon extremism and propose concrete solutions.

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