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Editorial: World should take seriously youth anger over climate change

  • September 25, 2019
  • , The Asahi Shimbun , 2:00 p.m.
  • English Press

It is time for the world to take concrete action to overcome the climate crisis.


With the Paris accord on climate change being implemented from next year, the United Nations Climate Action Summit was held on Sept. 23.


“The climate emergency is a race we are losing, but it is a race we can win,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.

All nations must share his sense of crisis and implement stricter measures to fight global warming.


The Paris accord’s goal is to keep the increase in global average temperature to less than 2 degrees, preferably less than 1.5 degrees, above pre-Industrial Revolution levels.


However, the temperature has already risen by around 1 degree, and the increase is expected to reach 1.5 degrees during the 2030s.


Even if all signatory nations achieve current reduction targets under the accord, the increase in global average temperature is projected to top 3 degrees by the end of this century.


Extreme weather episodes and natural disasters are causing serious economic and social damage.


Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, made an impassioned appeal to world leaders at the summit.


“The eyes of all future generations are upon you and if you choose to fail us, I say, we will never forgive you,” she said.


Thunberg was among 16 young activists from 12 countries who filed a complaint with the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, saying the governments’ failure to address global warming is threatening children’s rights.


Three days before the summit, more than 4 million youths in more than 160 nations participated in the Global Climate Strike. The anger of young people must be taken seriously.


Guterres said the world must achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. To realize the goal, he called for halting the construction of new coal-fired thermal power plants from 2020, introducing a carbon emissions tax and other measures.


In response, 77 nations pledged their commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050, which certainly was a welcome outcome of the summit.


However, this brought into contrast the lack of enthusiasm on the part of the United States, China, India and other major gas-emitting nations.


We are particularly apprehensive of the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris accord next year.


The United States ranks second in the world in carbon emissions. If the Americans keep thinking only of their own interests and turn their back on the crisis that threatens the entire human race, they will dampen the enthusiasm of other nations.


U.S. President Donald Trump must rethink his policy and refrain from pulling out of the Paris accord.


Japan, too, is under international criticism.


The nation plans to build many coal-fired thermal power plants at home and abroad, and the government’s carbon emissions reduction target is uninspiring at best.


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sat out the summit, and Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi announced no plans to enhance the nation’s countermeasures.


It would be totally understandable if the rest of the world was left wondering whether Japan shares any sense of crisis.


The path to a carbon-free society will never be smooth. But it is our generation’s responsibility to do everything within its power to prevent the next generation from being stuck with a negative legacy.

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