Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - From the streets to the summit: Young climate leaders mobilise

From the streets to the summit: Young climate leaders mobilise

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A woman holds a sign during a protest in Cali, Colombia. Thousands of young people across the globe are participating in a Global Climate Strike calling for urgent action to fight climate. LUIS ROBAYO/AFP

From the streets to the summit: Young climate leaders mobilise

A day after youth-led global climate strikes, several hundred young activists including Greta Thunberg gathered for a climate summit at the UN on Saturday, chiding older generations for doing too little to curb carbon emissions.

The UN has invited 500 young activists and entrepreneurs to take part in the New York meeting, the first of its kind, though some were unable to attend after being denied US visas, a point raised by the organisers.

It comes days before a climate action summit which UN chief Antonio Guterres has called to seek greater commitments from world leaders on reducing their greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris accord to avert runaway global warming.

The tone for Saturday’s event was set by an impassioned speech by Argentine activist Bruno Rodriguez, 19, who led school strikes in his native country.

“The climate and ecological crisis is the political crisis of our time, it is the economic crisis of our time, and it is the cultural crisis of our time,” he said, as Guterres, who was billed as the “keynote listener”, watched on.

“Many times, we hear that our generation is going to be the one in charge of dealing with the problems that current leaders have created, and we will not wait passively to become that future: The time is now for us to be leaders.”

Thunberg, whose protests outside Sweden’s parliament last year sparked the global youth movement, spoke first but briefly, saying she wanted to give more time to others.

“We showed we are united and young people are unstoppable,” said the 16-year-old, who will also address Monday’s summit.

On Friday, masses of children skipped school to join global strikes that Thunberg said were “only the beginning” of the movement.

Some four million people filled city streets around the world, organisers said, in what was billed as the biggest-ever protest against the threat posed to the planet by rising temperatures.

The corridors of the UN were filled on Saturday with young people in formal suits and ties, dresses, and traditional wear from their home countries, and others wearing simple t-shirts and jeans.

“This is the change, and it’s coming,” said Lalita P-Junggee, a green entrepreneur from Mauritius, who turns billboards and textile waste into fashionable bags.

The day also saw young innovators proposing solutions, pitching their ideas to panels from leading global companies like Google.

But corporations also came under fire for their ties to the oil and gas industries.

During one testy exchange, Kathleen Ma, a 23-year-old delegate who lives in New York turned to a representative from Microsoft, which this week announced a deal with Chevron and oilfield services company Schlumberger to provide cloud computing services.

“Do you care more about getting contracts from fossil fuel companies than you care about youth? Do you care more about profits than you care about us?” she asked, to wide applause.

Lucas Joppa, Microsoft’s chief environmental officer, thanked her for the question, replying: “That’s one that the entire tech sector and everybody in the world we live in today which is predicated upon an oil and gas economy has to answer.

“It’s one that you’ll be hearing more about both from Microsoft and our peers in the broader tech sector as this moves forward.”

Rodriguez, the activist from Argentina, later said that young activists were strongly in favour of efforts to divest from the fossil fuel industry, which was responsible for “pillaging” across Latin America.

He said he welcomed the fact that the corporate sector had a heavy presence on the sidelines of the main UN climate summit this week, but that their efforts need to go beyond rhetoric and “they also need to be conscious that the greenwashing speech has no place anymore”.

A landmark UN report to be unveiled next week will warn global warming and pollution are ravaging Earth’s oceans and icy regions in ways that could unleash misery on a global scale.

But Guterres struck a more optimistic note Saturday, crediting young activists with spurring action.

“This changing momentum was due to your initiative and to the courage, with which you have started these movements.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Rainsy lands in Malaysia

    Cambodian opposition figure Sam Rainsy arrived in Kuala Lumpur airport on Saturday afternoon after boarding a flight from Paris, where he has been living for more than four years. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation spokesperson Koy Kuong said on Saturday that Cambodia respected

  • Touch: Rainsy will never return

    Sam Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), has claimed it has achieved 70 per cent of its struggle to find a solution to the current political situation in the Kingdom. Just before boarding a plane at Charles de Gaulle

  • Sokha continues call for dropping of charge after bail conditions reduced

    Not satisfied with having his bail conditions reduced, allowing him to travel freely in Cambodia, Kem Sokha says he wants his charge totally dropped. “As an innocent man who has been in detention for two years even without being found guilty, I continue to demand

  • MEPs' call for Rainsy's safety not European Parliament position

    The European Parliament said on Friday that a statement by 56 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) calling for guarantees of Sam Rainsy’s freedom and safety should he return to Cambodia did not represent its position. Delphine Colard, the European Parliament’s press officer told

  • Sar Kheng: Rainsy return not blocked

    Minister of Interior Sar Kheng clarified that Cambodia had never blocked Sam Rainsy from returning to the Kingdom. However, he said Cambodia reserved the right to take legal action as allowed by law against activities aimed at destroying the Kingdom. “No one blocked the return

  • Cambodia celebrates 66th Independence Day

    Cambodia on Saturday celebrated Independence Day to mark the end of French colonial rule under the leadership of King Father Norodom Sihanouk in 1953. Thousands of people from all walks of life watched King Norodom Sihamoni light the victory flame at Independence Monument to mark the 66