FILE - United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks during the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday Sept. 25, 2018 at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

UN chief urges action to make Earth carbon neutral by 2050

‘Earth is issuing a chilling cry: Stop.’

Leader after leader told the United Nations on Monday that they will do more to prevent a warming world from reaching even more dangerous levels. But as they made their pledges at the Climate Action Summit, they conceded it was not enough.

Sixty-six countries have promised to have more ambitious climate goals and 30 swore to be carbon neutral by midcentury, said Chilean President Sebastian Pinera Echenique, who is hosting the next climate negotiations later this year.

Heads of nations such as Finland and Germany promised to ban coal within a decade. Several also mentioned goals of climate neutrality — when a country is not adding more heat-trapping carbon to the air than is being removed by plants and perhaps technology — by 2050.

U.S. President Donald Trump dropped by, listened to German Chancellor Angela Merkel make detailed pledges, including going coal-free, and left without saying anything.

The United States did not ask to have someone speak at the summit, U.N. officials said. And Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had told countries they couldn’t be on the agenda without making bold new proposals.

Even though there was no speech by Trump, who has denied climate change, called it a Chinese hoax and repealed U.S. carbon-reduction policies, he was talked about.

In a none-too-subtle jibe at Trump’s plans to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Paris climate agreement, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, said countries “must honour our commitments and follow through on the Paris Agreement.”

“The withdrawal of certain parties will not shake the collective goal of the world community,” Wang said to applause.

READ MORE: MEC and LUSH stores to close on Friday for global climate strikes

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the U.N.’s special climate envoy, thanked Trump for stopping by, adding that it might prove useful “when you formulate climate policy,” drawing a bit of laughter and applause on the floor of the General Assembly.

Before world leaders made their promises in three-minute speeches, 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg gave an emotional appeal in which she chided the leaders with the repeated phrase, “How dare you.”

“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here,” said Thunberg, who began a lone protest outside the Swedish parliament more than a year ago that culminated in Friday’s global climate strikes. “I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you have come to us young people for hope. How dare you. You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”

She told the U.N. that even the strictest emission cuts being talked about only gives the world a 50% chance of limiting future warming to another 0.4 degrees Celsius (0.72 degrees Fahrenheit) from now, which is a global goal. Those odds are not good enough, she said.

“We will not let you get away with this,” Thunberg said. “Right now is where we draw the line.”

Hilda Heine, president of the Marshall Islands, said she represents “the most climate vulnerable people on Earth.” Her tiny country has increased its emission cut proposals in a way that would limit warming to that tight goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times.

“We are now calling on others to join us,” Heine said.

Guterres opened the summit Monday by saying: “Earth is issuing a chilling cry: Stop.”

“Time is running out,” Guterres said. “But it is not too late.”

He told the more than 60 world leaders scheduled to speak that it’s not a time to negotiate but to act to make the world carbon neutral by 2050.

While presidents and premiers talked about what they hoped to do inside their own borders, French President Emmanuel Macron reminded them that they need to include climate change in their trade and finance policies so they don’t import goods that increase carbon pollution, nor fund polluting plants in other countries.

Macron begged other nations to increase their pledges to the Green Climate Fund, which helps poorer nations with climate issues. France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Norway, Denmark and Sweden have recently doubled their pledges.

“We are now at $7 billion,” Macron said. “The target is $10 billion to make up for the United States withdrawal,” and he then suggested America should reconsider adding money, to the applause of other leaders.

READ MORE: World leaders feel the heat in upcoming UN climate summit

More than 130 banks adopted policies that are more responsible and green, said Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holmes.

The day before summit, 87 companies announced stepped-up plans to cut greenhouse emissions and be greener, with several CEOs, including energy company chiefs, joining presidents and prime ministers at the microphone.

A decade ago, oil, coal and gas was “at the core of our business model,” said Henrik Poulsen, CEO for Danish energy company Orsted. But the company has gone wind-heavy and reduced heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions by 83% since 2006. The company will quit coal in 2022 and be carbon neutral by 2025, he added.

“Action, action, action,” Macron urged. “We cannot leave our young people to spend all of their Fridays protesting.”

Seth Borenstein, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wet’suwet’en herreditary chiefs meet with provincial, federal ministers

Neither party speaking on the groundwork laid for tomorrow’s talks

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs optimistic ahead of talks

Discussions with provincial and federal governments expected to start later today

‘The project is proceeding’: Horgan not backing down from support of Coastal GasLink

B.C. premier speaks as talks scheduled with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs

Coastal GasLink agrees to two-day pause of pipeline construction in Morice River area

Work will stop once Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs begin talks with province and feds

RCMP cease patrols on Morice West Service Road

Withdrawal opens door for talks today between hereditary chiefs, province and federal gov

Clothing, jewelry, purses: RCMP ask court about disposal of evidence in Robert Pickton case

Pickton was sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 25 years for the murders of six women

Ryan nets hat trick in return as Senators beat Canucks 5-2

Ottawa winger received assistance for admitted alcohol problem

Speaker ‘will not tolerate illegal activity’ on B.C. legislature grounds, says chief of staff

Chief of staff to the B.C. speaker Alan Mullen says situation with demonstrators appears ‘fluid’

MPs to examine privacy implications of facial-recognition technology used by RCMP

The MPs will look at how the technology affects the privacy, security and safety of children

Dates back to 2009: Calgary police lay charges in fraud involving semi-trucks

Three people from Calgary are facing charges that include fraud over $5,000

BREAKING: Kelowna RCMP to further investigate 12 sexual assault cases, create sexual assault unit

Recommendations come five months after it was revealed 40% of sexual assaults were deemed ‘unfounded’

Explicit Greta sticker linked to Alberta company draws outrage

The sticker includes the logo of Red Deer-based X-Site Energy Services

Share Now, formerly Car2Go, leaves Canada with valuable data in changing market: expert

Vancouver was its largest market in North America, with more than 300,000 customers

Most Read