Magazine News Volume 69, Issue 2

United Nations Climate Change Summit Follow-up

by Katelyn To

On September 23, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres called for leaders around the world to come together in New York to put forth plans that will achieve the promises of the 2016 Paris Agreement, which targeted problems such as long-term global temperature change and global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions. However, without a clear path and definitive action being taken, this agreement is useless.

65 countries promised to put more effort towards stopping climate change by the end of 2020. By 2050, 66 countries will reach carbon neutrality, or net zero carbon emissions. The European Union promised to devote 25% or more of its next budget to climate-related activities. Some countries have also made promises of their own, such as Sierra Leone, which agreed to plant two million trees by 2023, and New Zealand, which agreed to plant one billion by 2028. 

While some progress has been made, the UN Summit disappointed many people with its lack of action from three countries: China, the US, and India, the three biggest emitters of carbon dioxide in the world. Mrs. Harvey, a Contemporary Issues teacher at Las Lomas, said, “since the United States is one of the most wealthy and technologically advanced countries [in the world], we have a responsibility to [be] on the forefront of figuring out ways to stop climate change and the effects of climate change.” Yet, after Trump pulled out of the Paris Agreement, he made no efforts to mitigate climate change. “If Trump got voted out of office, that would give me so much more hope, seeing that he, like many other uneducated Americans, does not believe in science,” said Mia Portner, climate activist and founder of the Extinction Rebellion club at Las Lomas. 

Like Portner, other young people are taking action to combat climate change. Greta Thunberg, a 16-year old girl from Sweden, made a speech at the UN Climate Change Summit that went viral on social media. When asked about her, Mrs. Harvey stated, “What I really love about her is that she’s a young woman… I really believe that students have the power to make change, and she’s the perfect example of that.” Portner spoke about her from a different perspective: “Besides her overt and untiring activism, I love her openness about being on the autism spectrum. She even says autism is her superpower, something that has helped her stay focused when others may have drifted to different things.” When asked about the summit’s emphasis put on the youth, Las Lomas Junior Claire Dowd said, “it’s important that we do care about [climate change] because it is our future and our kids’ futures.”