UN climate summit: Greta Thunberg tells world leaders, ‘You have failed us’

The Swedish 16-year-old climate activist addressed a special summit convened by UN Secretary General António Guterres in New York on climate change and Joseph Muscat was there to listen

Joseph Muscat was one of 60 world leaders at a UN climate summit who heard Swedish activist Greta Thunberg's passionate plea for action against climate change
Joseph Muscat was one of 60 world leaders at a UN climate summit who heard Swedish activist Greta Thunberg's passionate plea for action against climate change

Joseph Muscat was among 60 world leaders who sat in for a UN climate summit on Monday in which Swedish campaigner Greta Thunberg made a passionate plea for action.

But like many of his peers, the Maltese Prime Minister must have had his ears twitching as Thunberg accused world leaders of failing to act on climate change.

"You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words," she told the leaders.

At the one-day meeting organised by Guterres ahead of the UN General Assembly which starts meeting on Tuesday, only countries that went with action plans to cut carbon emissions could speak.

Malta has missed its targets to reduce CO2 emissions with Eurostat data last May recording an increase of 6.7% in emissions over the previous year.

The increase was the second largest in the EU as carbon emissions from cars remain a major challenge for the island.

Ironically, last Friday, while millions of young people around the world, including Malta, protested to demand action on climate change, Muscat was inaugurating two Marsa junction flyovers. The government has embarked on country-wide road widening projects, which it insists will help reduce carbon emissions by cutting down on congestion. Environmentalists believe this will only help encourage more car use.

Thunberg said: "This is all wrong. I shouldn't be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean, yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words."

She urged world leaders to act urgently, saying: "We will be watching you."

US President Donald Trump, a climate change sceptic, had not been expected at the meeting but was briefly spotted in the audience.

Brazil and Saudi Arabia stayed away from the summit.

Guterres said the world was "in a deep climate hole" and that urgent action was needed.

"Time is running out, but it's not too late," he said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her country would double to €4bn it financial commitment to fight global warming.

French President Emmanuel Macron said international organisations had pledged to release additional aid to protect tropical forests, while New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said things "are starting to turn around" in the country.

"Our gross emissions peaked in 2006, over 80% of our electricity already comes from renewable hydro and wind, and we have begun an ambitious agenda,” Ardern said.

She added that her government had introduced in parliament the zero carbon Bill, the purpose of which is to ensure New Zealand lives within the threshold of 1.5C of global warming. The temperature limit is deemed by scientists as necessary to avoid catastrophic weather events around the globe, especially in low lying regions such as the Pacific Ocean.

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