GENEVA — The Fridays For Future youth climate movement wrapped up its first major European summit on Friday with agreement on three core demands of world leaders to prevent more planetary overheating.
More than 450 activists from 38 nations met in Lausanne, Switzerland for a weeklong summit to exchange ideas and strategies before agreeing to the “Lausanne Climate Declaration.” Its three core demands are for leaders to ensure climate justice and equity; to take action to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels; and to listen to the best “united” science available.
“We have come together in Lausanne because we care. We are at a crossroads in history,” the student activists said in their declaration. “The collapse of our society and our ecosystems are on the horizon and time is running out. What happens in the next months and years will determine how the future of humankind will look like. Our collective extinction is a scarily realistic outcome.”
“Politicians all over the world are ignoring the emergency,” it said. “But we have decided that we cannot wait any longer. We have come together in Lausanne because we are united by our common fears and goals and the time to act is now. We care about the future.”
The demand for climate justice and equity involves supporting developing nations, paying for cleaner technologies and pressuring wealthier nations that have benefited from industrialization to assume more responsibility for addressing climate change by reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.
The youths want world leaders to take real action to fulfill the 2015 Paris Agreement that sets out how nations must report their carbon emissions and pay for climate action. In December, almost 200 nations adopted a rulebook for accomplishing the Paris deal’s goal of preventing average global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, or 1.5 degrees C. if possible.
They want everyone to heed the advice of scientists with the Nobel Prize-winning U.N. panel on climate change, which warned the climate crisis poses a life-or-death challenge for much of life on the planet by 2040.
FANTASTIC: Thousand march for climate in Lausanne in the middle of (hot) August holidays, after #SMILEforFuture met with 450 young people to discuss #FridaysforFuture values and strategy. pic.twitter.com/45hoYcmtyO
— JPascal van Ypersele (@JPvanYpersele) August 9, 2019
The “united” science
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, concluded in a major report last year that nothing can protect the world against all of the most dangerous projections for global warming.
Since the world has already warmed by 1 degree C. from pre-industrial levels, the most favorable scenarios under the Paris deal mean deciding whether to allow warming to continue by either a half-degree or 1 degree more. But the IPCC warned that a lot hangs on that decision.
Its report found a half-degree less warming would cause fewer deaths and illnesses and 0.1 meters less sea rise, and it would halve the number of people who lacked fresh water. Substantially fewer heatwaves and droughts would result, it said, and the world’s coral reefs might survive. Limiting the global average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C. also would avert 150 million premature deaths over the 21st century.
The report also said the planet is on track to cross the threshold of 1.5 degrees C. above pre-industrial levels by as early as 2030, bringing the risk of catastrophic climate change marked by floods, extreme drought, wildfires and food shortages for hundreds of millions of people.
Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, a Belgian climate scientist and former IPCC vice-chair, praised the Lausanne youth summit after attending it.
“The creativity, commitment, enthusiasm I saw over the past two days among these young people, inspired by Greta Thunberg, give me hope for the future of climate action,” said van Ypersele.
“The IPCC report, however important it is, can quickly be hidden in a drawer,” he said. “Those young people looking at political leaders and company CEOs in the eyes, asking them to act to save their future, are much more difficult to ignore. Their work helps the work of the IPCC scientists in an extraordinary way.”
— Fridays For Future Europe (@fff_europe) August 9, 2019
An active holiday
The use of the summer school break to plot more high-profile interventions follows on the movement’s initial strategy of Friday school strikes. Also attending the SMILE For Future summit in Lausanne was 16-year-old Swedish student Greta Thunberg, whose August 2018 protests in front of Swedish parliament sparked the global movement.
Since her initial protest, at least 3.6 million youth participated in 23,000 climate strikes across the globe, according to tallies kept by the nascent Fridays for Future movement.
Their next move is to stage a first “General and Global Strike for Climate” in late September. They hope it will be the largest climate strike in history, just ahead of the United Nations General Assembly and U.N. Climate Summit in New York.
Youth climate strikes already have brought results. In European Parliament elections in May, Europe’s Greens gained influence from voters worried about the planet’s health. The Greens’ young supporters in the European Union’s parliament shared a pro-E.U. sentiment, sharply contrasting with far-right populists and anti-immigrant nationalists who also fared well with Europe’s voters.
“I work a lot for ‘Climate strike’ because I think it is really important,” said Luca Salis of Germany.
“It is the only thing that I can do right now that could cause a change,” he said. “It’s stressful but we have a good community, we have the same goal and work together in a huge team which, most of the time, works really well. It reduces the stress.”