Greta Thunberg, Activists Petition U.N. to Declare State of Emergency on Climate Change

Greta Thunberg and other young climate activists called on the United Nations on Wednesday to declare a state of emergency on climate change, using the U.N.’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic as a blueprint for action.

In a petition to António Guterres, the U.N. secretary general, the group argued that the organization had not marshaled its full institutional powers to confront climate change. They urged it to declare a “Level 3 emergency” — the U.N.’s highest designation — as it did for Covid-19.

That would allow the organization to deploy resources and staff to countries most susceptible to climate change disasters. And it would mean that the U.N. could help countries meet their emission reduction pledges, the petitioners said.

“Many of us — especially those from small island states and Indigenous communities — fear we will have become climate refugees,” the petition said, adding, “We have no time to wait.”

Addressing Mr. Guterres. they said, “We hope that in standing with us, you will use all your institutional powers to act with us.”

The 14 petitioners come from all over the world, including Nigeria, Brazil, Argentina, India, the United States, the Marshall Islands and Palau, where the activists say they have seen firsthand the affects of climate change, from rising sea levels and heat waves to wildfires and flooding.

The petition comes in the final days of the climate conference in Glasgow, known as COP26, where the United Nations is working on an accord that entreats nations to set more aggressive goals on cutting climate change emissions.

Activists like Ms. Thunberg, 18, have called the summit a failure akin to a “green wash campaign, a P.R. campaign,” for business leaders and lawmakers.

Many of the activists had previously filed a petition in 2019 to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child against Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany and Turkey, accusing them of violating child rights by not cutting emissions and perpetuating climate change. The committee dismissed the petition in 2021, though it recognized that countries had responsibilities to reduce emissions.

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