World leaders responding to the pandemic must not forfeit action on climate crisis – or risk failing children and future generations further, Amnesty International said ahead of a global day of school strikes against climate change planned for 25 September.
Climate change was cited as one of the most important issues of our time in a survey of more than 10,000 young people published by Amnesty International just months before the pandemic turned the world upside down.
To allow us to limit global warming to 1.5°C, and avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change, governments agreed to submit updated pledges to reduce emissions and mitigate the climate crisis.
Globally, only 12 countries have submitted plans so far, with the deadline of the end of the year fast approaching.
The current state of play indicates that many wealthy countries with a long history of fuelling climate change and states with the highest levels of emissions are not only falling behind in their plans but taking measures that will set climate action back several years.
Only four of the 12 countries that have submitted updated plans are wealthy industrialised countries.
The UK, and Canada, have yet to follow suit, while the US and Australia won’t put forward updated pledges at all. The European Commission is proposing to European leaders an insufficiently ambitious reduction in emissions by 2030 (55% below 1990 levels).
Other countries with high levels of emissions, such as China, India and Russia, respectively responsible for approximately 28%, 7% and 5% of current global greenhouse gas emissions, have provided no indication that they will increase their targets any time soon.
‘2020 was supposed to be the year of climate action, but tragically it has become instead the year of Covid-19. The impact of the pandemic cannot be underestimated, and recovery will take time. However, climate inaction must not be the political payoff. Pandemic recovery efforts have seen emissions reduction targets fall by the wayside in a staggering act of political myopia, in light of the fact that global warming triggers disasters, diseases and other impacts of incommensurable proportion.’
Amnesty International’s law and policy director
Benefits for polluters
In the last few months several countries – including the US, Canada, UK and Russia – have allowed fossil fuel companies, the aviation industry and other carbon-polluting companies to benefit from economic stimulus measures, such as tax rebates and loans.
These have largely been granted with no conditions attached, meaning that these industries can continue to function and even expand without having to commit to reducing emissions or using the government support only to support workers.