Thunberg, German deal and matters arising

The climate has become one issue which has come to define our existence as humans.

And boldly taking her destiny in her hands, 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg, took the world by storm when she undertook a voyage from Sweden, her home country to New York on a carbon-free sailing boat.

 It was a14-day adventure that almost turned to misadventure. But she braced the odds and with grit and determination made it to her desired destination-the New York Harbours (Wednesday, August 28), a city where the world gathers today as the 75th United Nations General Assembly opens with climate change. Top on the agenda at the summit is fashioning out practical solutions to emerging and visible threats by the climate.

 Prior to this time, the school girl, about a year ago, commenced a solo protest outside the Swedish parliament. The climate teenage activist began a sit-down protest outside the parliament August 2018 to compel members to act on climate change.

 And hearkening to the call from one of them, children from across the globe took to the streets Friday to protest the leaders’ inaction towards the climate change and its attendant challenges.

Though the mode of the protest varies from one country to the other, but their concern remains one and the same. In unison, they said– world leaders are indifferent to our plight and consequences of the climate change on us and our future.

An Australian boy says it all: “Yes, our teachers are teaching us but if we don’t have our future secured, there is no way we can use what they teach us in future because we have to exist to use the knowledge.”

What of the United Kingdom? It’s same story! It became a subject of controversy between the children and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson. Of course, the children not only have their say but also their way.

While Anna Taylor, a co-founder of UK Student Climate Network, believes it’s “very easy” to persuade people to show up, Williamson says “every child” should be in school.

“They should be learning, they shouldn’t be bunking off and it’s very irresponsible for people to encourage children to do so,” says the education scribe.

For Jessica Ahmed, 16-year-old student, “School is important but so is my future. If politicians were taking the appropriate action we need – and had been taking this action a long time ago when it was recognised the world was changing in a negative way – then I would not have to be skipping school.”

Towards zero carbon Germany    

And in Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, a 54billion euro((£48bn; $60bn)) deal was struck between the government and the people in a bid to meet a 2030 climate target on cutting greenhouse gases by 55% on 1990 levels.

In their numbers, children as well as adults, pour out to the streets to demonstrate concern over their waning future amid threatening climate change. According to reports, the demonstrations were simultaneously carried out in 575 cities.

And where President Donald Trump doesn’t see the issue as requiring a quick fix, Chancellor Angela Merkel-led coalition government is sharp in its response to the people’s yearnings towards a zero carbon Germany in 2050. Unlike Trump, the German leader admits before thousands of  protesters; “We are not living sustainably today.” 

But one thing about all of this is government’s sincerity that the 2020 target set in 1990 for reducing greenhouse gas emission by 40% was no more feasible.  It never deludes itself and plays on the people’s intelligence. The chancellor is of the view that the prospect of reaching the 2030 target is far brighter than it was in the 2020 target.

She appears the only world leader that responsively releases some out-of-climate change palliatives, even though Germans still consider it a no deal.

Notwithstanding, the coalition government comes up with an ambitious plan towards the 2050 target. First, it agrees to setting a price on carbon emissions in the deal, particularly in transport and buildings. Strategically, long-distance rail will enjoy a tax fall while air travel will have its own shot up.

Another major feature of the carbon pricing which comes into effect from 2021 shows it will be slammed on petrol and diesel as well as gas and heating oil. By this, an initial three eurocents will be added to the cost of a litre of petrol and diesel, rising to between 9 and 15 cents by 2026.

This initiative is to be based on a trade in emissions certificates in compliance with the European Union’s standard. The current cost of a tonne of C02 is €26.30 and the government plans to raise the price to €35 by 2025 with a cap of €60. For all intent and purpose, this looks plausible and feasible.

Further to that, government says there will be incentives for buying electric cars as well as photovoltaic panels(solar system to be precise) and a higher target for energy from offshore wind turbines.

Still not done, VAT (sales tax) on rail tickets will crash to 7% from 19% effective from January 2020, while Deutsche Bahn(owners of bus and train mass transit) says it would waive any price increase.

Taking it a notch higher, government plans to plough yet another €1billion annually until 2030 to upgrade and expand the rail network to cope with anticipated increase in passengers.

Still far from being a real deal!

And instantly and prompt as it seems, the deal never goes down well with the protesters. Adopting the part-English hashtag Not my Klima paket (not my climate package), the group says 1.4 million protesters took to the streets across Germany.

The group is of the view that the aforementioned measures do not have any bearing with limiting the rise in global temperatures to 1.5C and that German society is ahead of its government in thinking of ways out of climate change effect.

“This is no breakthrough today, this is a scandal,” says popular climate activist, Luisa Neubauer.

But can government really achieve the 55% cut target in 2030?

In the days ahead, the government will have a herculean task reaching out to the people and convincing them on why they must not doubt its fresh plans to achieve carbon-free Germany come 2050.

 It will also have to speak up on the decision to leave the price of a tonne of carbon unchanged for several years.


On the whole, the concern raised by children over leaders’ non-challance should definitely be given serious attention today at the UNGA summit.

And without doubt, the existential threats of global warming are one thing the world can’t afford to sit by and watch. From Europe, Africa, and Asia to America as well as Latin America, the story does not appear to be changing for the better.

As world leaders brainstorm on this threatening phenomenon, it is important to say we must not feel unconcerned. Otherwise, we all will be preparing for a disaster waiting to consume the world.

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