Extinction Rebellion

Young people holding climate protest placards

XR Youth Open Letter UN Summit

By XR Youth, on 24 September 2019


XR Youth Australia calls on United Nations to declare Global Climate Emergency and ensure worldwide commitment to carbon neutrality by 2025.

Dear UN Secretary General and Ambassador Gillian Bird,

We are writing to you regarding the upcoming United Nations Climate Action Summit on the 23rd of September.

As the passionate youth of Extinction Rebellion Australia, we are deeply concerned about the detrimental impacts that the climate and ecological crisis is and will continue to have on the lives of people who have contributed the least to this issue, being younger generations and First Nations peoples. We are no longer accepting the UN and Australian government's failed promises and advocacy without action. We are no longer compromising the safety of our lives and the lives of people across the globe who are already being affected by the crisis we are facing. We are thereby imploring you and the UN to act on our concerns.

Whilst we are thankful for your advocacy and position as a leading voice on climate, we are frustrated that the UN's aims for tackling this crisis have fallen short of what is required. Since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was established in 1992, emissions have increased by 60% and continue to rise despite the numerous worldwide summits and agreements that have taken place. Long before our own existence, scientists have perpetually warned against the escalating impacts of human induced climate change. In spite of this, we have pursued business as usual tactics in the interest of large corporates and corrupt governments thus exponentially furthering our emissions each year.

It is widely acknowledged that “this is an [ecological and climate] emergency and for emergency situations we need emergency action”, as the former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon said. Yet the aim of the UN this September 23rd falls far short of “emergency action”. A study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that if “long term” carbon cycle feedbacks are considered, the Paris path (Paris Agreement 2016) would result in approximately 5℃ of warming in comparison to pre-industrial levels. This thereby concludes that the IPCC's aim of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees cannot be achieved by meeting the “goals of the Paris Agreement” or “net zero emissions by 2050”, suggesting that the current commitments of the UN will result in catastrophic climate impacts.

In the first chapter of the Charter of the United Nations it is stated that the UN aims “to maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to peace”. However, if we continue “business as usual” neither peace nor security will be possible to maintain. The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres reiterated this, and the threat posed by the climate emergency on September the 10th of 2018, when Guterres stated “We face a direct existential threat … If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change” and yet 2020 is only a mere three months away, global emissions continue to rise, and the Paris Agreement is far from what is needed.

It is an absolute imperative that the UN demands for no less than “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes” from state leaders this September 23rd in order to protect “international peace and security” and avoid the “existential threat” that climate breakdown poses. Because if the UN does not adopt a stronger stance then they will be complicit in failing to protect peace, security and our future, thereby leaving us hopeless and even more desperate for action.

As youth of Australia we are deeply ashamed to live within a country whose leaders refuse to take action and instead support the profits of corrupt multi-billion dollar companies like the ‘Adani Group’ over our Human Rights “to life, liberty and security of person” all of which are threatened by a rapidly deteriorating climate.

We are fearful for those already on the frontlines of climate impacts. For indigenous communities who have lived holistically with the natural environment for thousands and thousands of years yet are now having to fight for their lives because they are feeling the impacts of climate breakdown first and worst. Whether that's rising sea levels, wildfires, more extreme weather events, mining exploration, logging operations and overfishing, it is the people who have contributed the least to the issue that are feeling the full brunt of this crisis. It is therefore crucial that the UN pursues climate justice and the articles set forward in the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, by setting far more ambitious commitments that truly have the potential to keep warming below 1.5°C.

There is no longer time to conduct more research or instigate yet another report. We know what the problem is, we have all the solutions we need, and it will cost less than the global annual expenditure on arms. The time to act is now and we cannot afford to fail.

So, we are pleading you, the United Nations to take “all necessary measures” to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of the climate crisis.

We are calling on the UN to publicly declare a Global Climate Emergency, to ensure worldwide commitment to carbon neutrality by 2025 and to encourage the global creation of Citizens Assemblies to make decisions for our future.

Please act on our concerns, because the decisions you make will define our future.

Love and rage,

XR Youth Australia