Climate Week: World leaders again fail to take tough action to meet the climate crisis

World leaders have failed to deliver on the high hopes of activists seeking an historical turning point for climate action.

They gathered in New York yesterday for the UN Climate Summit, just days after more than four million people joined the Climate Strike around the world to demand urgent action on the climate emergency.

Here is a lowdown of what happened from our Climate Campaigner Sophie Geoghegan.



First, the good news:

  • 77 countries committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, including all 47 Least Developed Countries
  • 70 countries agreed to increase their pledges under the Paris Agreement, the global climate commitment to keep warming below 2°C – and, ideally, to below 1.5°C
  • A new benchmark was set by Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden and the UK for countries to double their contributions to the Green Climate Fund
  • Greta Thunberg, the Swedish climate activist, made an impassioned speech on behalf of young people everywhere, accusing world leaders of forsaking humanity and ecosystems for the ‘fairy tales of eternal economic growth’. She then, along with 15 others, filed a complaint to the United Nations against Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany and Turkey for failing to address the climate crisis which constitutes a violation of their rights as children
  • Russia ratified the Paris Agreement
  • Finland announced that it will become carbon neutral by 2033 and ‘carbon negative’ soon after
  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson came to the summit with a ‘message of hope’, reiterating the UK’s net zero target for 2050 and doubling the UK’s contribution for overseas development funding for tackling climate change over the next five years. In the run up to the meeting, the UK announced a further £220m in funding for a new biodiversity fund which will focus on better law enforcement for environmental protection
  • The Consumer Goods Forum, a CEO-led organisation driving positive change and efficiency across the consumer goods industry, has reinforced its commitment to phase out super polluting hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), widely used in air-conditioning and refrigeration, and implement energy efficient climate-friendly cooling with transparent action plans. It has called on industry partners to match this ambition and for governments to help in facilitation in order to achieve sustainable commercial refrigeration worldwide
  • Maersk, the shipping giant, committed to ‘commercially viable’ zero emissions vessels on deep sea trade routes by 2030.


And now for the bad news

  • World leaders were asked to “bring plans not speeches” on how they will meet the Paris Agreement targets and achieve net zero economies, yet very few did
  • Big polluters Australia, Brazil, Japan, Saudi Arabia and the USA were notable only in their absence
  • China, India and Turkey failed to address their coal expansion plans
  • None of the large polluters raised the ambition of their current climate plans
  • A new European Commission set to begin in November means little leadership could come from the EU – the Commission’s new president has suggested raising EU climate targets, including net zero by 2050, but they have yet to be approved.

The door for ambition remains open and we must continue to put pressure on governments to increase their Paris Agreement contributions when they are revisited next year.

With the UK hosting the meeting in 2020, we expect it to forge the way and set the bar high.