Thunberg tells UN ‘we will never forgive you’: summit latest 

As the UN climate summit in New York begins, FT reporters deliver regular updates here on the latest news from an important week for the environmental movement

Confident Boris Johnson ends summit with a five-year promise

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 23, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

© Reuters

The climate summit wrapped up on Monday night with a speech from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who pledged to double the UK’s funding for tackling climate change over the next five years. 

The UK will host the UN climate talks next year in Glasgow, and Mr Johnson echoed the calls of other leaders at the summit today who have called for more urgent climate action. 

“We have to do better if we are going to avoid catastrophic climate change,” he said, listing out the impacts of a warmer planet including heatwaves, desertification, “defoliation” of trees, and ocean acidification.

“I sound like an old testament prophet of doom. But you know I’m right.”

He said that the UK would increase its climate-related overseas development funding to £11.6bn ($144bn) over the next five years. Mr Johnson pointed to the UK’s solar industry and to the country’s decline in emissions as reasons to be optimistic. 

“Today we are able to run for some weeks with no use of coal whatsoever. That’s why I’m so confident that we in the UK can get to net zero carbon by 2050, and we are going to do it through technology,” he said. “And we are going to help the rest of the world to get there too.”

His comments came at the end of a gathering that saw more than 60 countries declare new climate pledges, marking the biggest high-level climate summit since the Paris climate pact was negotiated in 2015.

Leslie Hook in New York

Macron links trade talks to climate pledge

Mandatory Credit: Photo by HAYOUNG JEON/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (10421964c) President of France Emmanuel Macron (L), German Chancellor Angela Merkel (2R), and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R) meet after the United Nations (UN) Climate Action Summit 2019 at the UN headquarters in New York, USA, 23 September 2019. German Chancellor Merkel visits the US to attend the United Nations Climate Summit and General Assembly. German Chancellor Merkel meets British Prime Minister Johnson and French President Macron at UN, New York, USA - 23 Sep 2019

German Chancellor Merkel meets British Prime Minister Johnson and French Pesident Emmanuel Macron at the UN after the 2019 Climate Summit. © HAYOUNG JEON/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

French president Emmanuel Macron urged world leaders to respond more urgently to climate change and linked trade negotiations to commitments on emissions.

Mr Macron said France would not pursue new trade negotiations with countries that were not following the Paris climate agreement, adding that doing so would be “deeply hypocritical”.

He added that imports with negative environmental consequences, such as deforestation, must be considered carefully and “compensated for”. He called on countries to contribute more to the Green Climate Fund — which Mr Trump has said he will stop paying into — and urged Europe to do more to reduce emissions.

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Greta Thunberg to UN: ‘We will never forgive you’

The 16 year old climate activist Greta Thunberg has delivered a sharp rebuke to world leaders, saying their inaction over global warming was failing future generations and pushing the world towards an era of “mass extinction.”

Ms Thunberg said the failure of politicians and lawmakers to tackle climate change meant “people are suffering, people are dying and entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are the beginning of a mass extinction.”

“How dare you” rely on the youth to rally support for climate activism and for hope, asked Ms Thunberg in an emotional speech delivered at the opening of the UN’s climate summit.

“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here, I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean,” she said. “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”

The young activist, who has sparked a world wide youth climate movement, told the leaders gathered for the summit that today’s youth were “watching” them and were beginning to understand their “betrayal.” She said the proposal to half global emissions by 2030 was insufficient, since it would not necessarily prevent an “irreversible chain reactions beyond human control” that would devastate the planet.

Ms Thunberg said she did not want to believe that world leaders fully understood the gravity of the situation but had chosen not to take action, because “then you would be evil, and that I refuse to believe.”

Without urgent action, said Ms Thunberg, future generations will suffer dire consequences. “If you choose to fail us, we will never forgive you.”

Camilla Hodgson

Standing room only for the oil and gas company response

The U.S. Capitol stands past an "Oil Kills" puppet held by protesters during the Shut Down DC climate demonstration in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Sept. 23, 2019. Heads of state from France to India are gathering in New York this week along with some of the world's top corporate leaders for a climate summit as protests demanding curbs in carbon emissions expand across the globe. Photographer: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg

© Bloomberg

Ten blocks from the UN climate summit, inside an ornate library built by J Pierpont Morgan, startups backed by 13 of the world’s largest oil and gas companies explained how they plan to fix emissions from fossil fuels. 

Five of them track or control leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Five more seek to reduce carbon dioxide emissions with technologies including machine-learning thermostats and cylindrical sails for ships. A third group of five are working on carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS), which would bury CO2 underground or convert it to products such as polyurethane and cement. 

All the companies have together received more than $100m in investment from the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, a group of oil companies including BP, Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and Saudi Aramco who represent about 30 per cent of world oil and gas production. 

“With collective action we can pool together our knowledge, experience, know-how and drive, and drive emissions reductions and support the industry’s response to climate change,” Bob Dudley, BP chief executive, said as he introduced the session to a standing-room only audience. 

A senior official at the Environmental Defense Fund moderated the methane panel, while Collin O’Mara, the chief of the National Wildlife Federation, another US environment group, led the panel on CCUS. Mr O’Mara said there was no way to reach net-zero emissions without the technology, which is opposed by some as enabling the continued combustion of fossil fuels.

“The time for purity is over,” he said. “We need it all. We need every technology.” 

Some other green advocates condemn OGCI as a greenwashing exercise. As earlier reported, a group of about 40 protestors waved signs outside a gathering hosted by Mr Dudley on Sunday night. Even as the OGCI makes pledges to reduce the methane and carbon intensity of oil and gas production, some of its member companies belong to trade associations that do not the support the Paris climate agreement. 

Gregory Meyer in New York

Trump makes an unexpected appearance

U.S. President Donald Trump ans Vice Preside Mike Pence attend the

© Reuters

There was one unexpected guest at today’s UN climate summit: US President Donald Trump, who was not scheduled to speak. The president suddenly showed up in the audience mid-morning, entering the UN general assembly hall and sitting with the US delegation, as other heads of state delivered climate speeches.

Some on stage nodded to his presence. “Good to see you joined us,” quipped former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, from the stage, where he was giving his address. “Hope you listen to conversations and find it helpful as you formulate your climate policy.”

The president listened while Indian Prime Minister Modi made his speech, ending it with a call to action. “The world needs to act now,” he said, with Mr Trump joining in the applause.

The US is the most conspicuous absentee from the speaker line-up at the climate summit, which includes more than 60 other countries. President Trump has said he plans to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, and has pursued measures to support the coal industry.

Leslie Hook in New York

Keynote speaker: NZ’s Jacinda Ardern

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 23: Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern speaks at the Climate Action Summit at the United Nations on September 23, 2019 in New York City. While the United States will not be participating, China and about 70 other countries are expected to make announcements concerning climate change. The summit at the U.N. comes after a worldwide Youth Climate Strike on Friday, which saw millions of young people around the world demanding action to address the climate crisis. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

© Getty

New Zealand’s prime minister was tapped on the shoulder to give the keynote speech at the summit and called for countries to “put climate change at the heart of trade relations”.

Jacinda Ardern told a meeting of business leaders convened by the UN Global Compact committed to carbon reduction measures that countries should impose either carbon taxes or emissions trading schemes.

Speaking over a plant-based “climate conscious meal”, she called for trade discussions to include a consistent focus on reducing emissions while allowing companies to compete on price and quality.

António Guterres, UN secretary-general, said increasingly that while businesses were taking action, “the obstacle comes from governments.”

“Green business is good business,” he said. “Governments are still reluctant to change regulation and adopt relevant policies . . . It’s much better to tax carbon than to tax income.”

Speaking for Indian business, Ananda Mahindra, head of technology group Mahindra, said: “Climate change is not just a trade-off opportunity. It’s the biggest opportunity of the next decades.”

He recognised that there was still a big division with many “climate resisters” among business, and called for more to support change.

Andrew Jack

UN youth movement led by Thunberg files suit against five countries

Activist Alexandria Villasenor listens with other child petitioners from twelve countries around the world who presented a landmark complaint to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child to protest the lack of government action on the climate crisis during a press conference in New York, U.S., September 23, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

New York’s Greta Thunberg: teenage activist Alexandria Villasenor with the other petitioners from 12 countries who presented a landmark complaint to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child © Reuters

Greta Thunberg and a group of young activists are suing five countries for ignoring the risks of global warming for “decades” and worsened the climate crisis, in a landmark lawsuit filed with the UN on Monday. 

The complaint, filed by youth petitioners aged between eight and 17, alleges that Brazil, France, Germany, Argentina and Turkey knew about the dangers of climate change but failed to curb their carbon emissions and continued to promote fossil fuels.

The lawsuit was filed with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which seeks to safeguard the rights of children. The committee, comprised of 18 independent child rights experts, will determine if the complaint is admissible and, if so, gather responses from the named countries in order to make recommendations.

The complaint outlines the various ways in which climate change has affected the youth petitioners’ lives — from wildfires and flooding, drought and worsening air quality, as well as mental anxiety and depression.

“People who are older aren’t paying as much attention because they will not be as affected. They don’t take us children seriously, but we want to show them we are serious,” said Ayakha Melithafa, a 17-year old from South Africa who is one of the petitioners.

Camilla Hodgson

UN issues dire warning of ‘apocalyptic’ climate change impact 

pworld, The Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres attends a press conference about climate change in New York, New York, U.S., March 28, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

© Reuters

The UN secretary-general issued a dire warning about the “apocalyptic” impact of climate change at the opening of the UN climate summit in New York.

“Nature is angry,” António Guterres said. “Around the world, nature is striking back with fury.”

He continued: “Our warming earth is issuing a chilling cry: Stop. If we don’t urgently change our ways of life, we jeopardise life itself.

My generation has failed in its responsibility to protect our planet. That must change. The climate emergency is a race we are losing, but it is a race we can win.”

Mr Guterres has made climate change his signature issue, and personally lobbied world leaders to show up today with concrete commitment to stop subsidising fossil fuels, stop building new power stations, and move toward net zero emissions.

He also acknowledged that the transition would not be easy. “Limiting warming to 1.5C is still possible. But it will require fundamental transformations in all aspects of society — how we grow food, use land, fuel our transport and power our economies,” he said. “There is a cost to everything. But the biggest cost is doing nothing.”

Leslie Hook in New York 

Protesters target Manhattan bank gathering 

A small group of protesters gathered in front of BNP Paribas’s offices in Manhattan where representatives from 130 banks have convened to announce the signing of the UN Principles for Responsible Banking accord.

Activists from environmental groups including the Rainforest Action Network, and BankTrack unfurled banners calling for an end to fossil fuel financing. While the activists believe the Principles for Responsible Banking could represent a step toward slowing global warming, they are concerned the accord is toothless and simply allows the banks to burnish their green public image without requiring much action.

“We hope they are not bulls***,” said Johan Frijns, director of campaigns at BankTrack. However he is concerned that the four year implementation period and the vague wording of the principles leaves too much room for greenwashing.

The protesters also pointed out that some of the signatories such as Citigroup, Mizuho and ICBC are among the largest lenders to fossil fuel companies.

BNP representatives did not want to speak on the record about the protests but expressed frustration that the activists were targeting the companies who had signed the PRB rather than those who had abstained.

Billy Nauman in New York

Almost 70 countries to pledge tougher climate goals 

Protesters take over Dearborn Street in Chicago's famed Loop during a global climate change march Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, in Chicago. Throughout the world Friday, young people banded together to demand that world leaders headed to a United Nations summit in New York step up their efforts to combat climate change. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

© AP

Ahead of the speeches from heads of state at the UN climate summit later today, Chile — which is hosting the climate talks in December — has announced a tally of what we can expect.

Some 69 countries will promise to adopt tougher climate goals by the end of next year, while 65 countries are aiming to reach net zero emissions by the middle of the century.

The coalition led by Chile has also corralled businesses and asset managers to signed up to a net zero emissions commitment. That list includes Calpers, the California state pension, Swiss Re, and Allianz. The businesses that have joined include Ikea, Iberdrola, Nestlé, and Unilever.

One of the main purposes of the climate summit is to get countries to fall in line with the real changes demanded by the Paris climate accord. The pact, adopted in 2016 by 197 countries, pledged to limit global warming to well below 2C.

But countries’ current commitments are far away from meeting that goal — so it is up to Chile to try to bring them closer. In theory, all of the 185 countries that have ratified the Paris pact should be prepared to adopt tougher climate targets next year. Today’s announcement mean that roughly one-third are already working on doing so.

“2020 is just around the corner and we must realise that decisions need to be made now,” Sebastián Piñera, Chile’s president, said. “We are the first generation to suffer the effects of climate change and the last one that can do something about it.”

Leslie Hook in New York

Mixed reception for Johnson’s £1bn climate funding pledge

Prime Minister Boris Johnson boarding his plane at Heathrow Airport as he heads off for the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York for speeches and bilaterals where he will meet world leaders such Donald Trump, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel. PA Photo. Picture date: Sunday September 22, 2019. See PA story POLITICS UN. Photo credit should read: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Prime Minister Boris Johnson boards a plane on the way to a meeting of the UN General Assembly © PA

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has announced up to £1bn of funding to develop new technologies aimed at tackling climate change in developing countries to cracking down on poachers, as well as £175m to help protect 1bn people around the world from the effects of extreme weather. 

Although some welcomed the plans, others said they did not go far enough. Rebecca Newsom, head of politics at Greenpeace UK, said Mr Johnson’s “pet projects” were a “flop” that fell “desperately short of the radical action and bold vision” needed to counter climate change. She said the UK should have suspended trade talks with Brazil, where wildfires in the Amazon are still raging.

Meanwhile, protesters took to the streets of London to demand more be done to tackle global warming and reduce the world’s reliance on fossil fuels. Groups of mothers with pushchairs took a stand outside the offices of Shell and BP as well as Downing Street — hours after similar protests against oil majors took place in New York.

The #pushchairprotest saw mothers with prams brandishing placards inscribed with messages such as “Fossil fuel industry: You’re killing your own children too!”

Camilla Hodgson in London

Japan’s $1.6tn pension fund calls on lenders for action

Hiro Mizuno, head of the $1.6tn Japanese government pension investment fund, called on lenders and bondholders to do more to engage with companies on environmental social and government issues.

In his keynote address to the UN Principles for Responsible Banking summit at BNP Paribas’s New York office, Mr Mizuno said that equity shareholders often overestimate how much sway they have over companies.

Shareholder engagement has been a primary pillar of the GPIF’s ESG strategy, but Mr Mizuno believes for real change to happen, banks and bondholders must do more to push companies to be more sustainable.

Billy Nauman in New York

Danish pension funds to invest $50bn in climate solutions

Activists take part in a demonstration as part of the Global Climate Strike in Manhattan in New York, U.S., September 20, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

© Reuters

A coalition of Danish pension funds plans to invest $50bn in clean energy projects by 2030 in an effort to galvanise support from other institutional investors to fight climate change.

The Danish initiative, which is supported by Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen, is led by PKA, a $45bn pension fund representing 320,000 members. Denmark’s pensions sector has invested more than $19bn since 2010 in clean energy projects and measures to reduce the damage from pollution caused by the energy sector.

Peter Damgaard Jensen, PKA chief executive, who co-ordinated the pension coalition, said the fight to prevent a climate catastrophe was “the greatest challenge” facing the world.

Chris Flood in London

Three things to watch at the UN summit

SHANXI, CHINA -NOVEMBER 26: (CHINA, HONG KONG, MACAU, TAIWAN OUT) Smoke billows from stacks as a Chinese woman wears as mask while walking in a neighborhood next to a coal fired power plant on November 26, 2015 in Shanxi, China. A history of heavy dependence on burning coal for energy has made China the source of nearly a third of the world's total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, the toxic pollutants widely cited by scientists and environmentalists as the primary cause of global warming. China's government has publicly set 2030 as a deadline to reach the country's emissions peak, and data suggest the country's coal consumption is already in decline. The governments of more than 190 countries are expected to sign an agreement in Paris to set targets on reducing carbon emissions in an attempt to forge a new global agreement on climate change. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

In the absence of the US — which will not be presenting at the climate summit — China has been less incentivized to make new climate promises. © Getty

The UN climate summit begins at 10am in New York, with a line-up that features about 60 heads of state including French President Emmanuel Macron of France, German chancellor Angela Merkel, and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Among the first to speak will be Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, as well as UN secretary-general António Guterres, who has made the climate summit his signature event.

It is poised to be the most significant climate meeting since the Paris climate summit in 2015. But whether it will be enough keep alive the goal of the Paris agreement — limiting global warming to well below 2C — remains to be seen. Here’s what we’ll be keeping an eye on:

1. New climate commitments. Under the Paris climate agreement, the countries that signed the pact will propose their own climate goals, called Nationally Determined Contributions (or NDCs). All signatories are supposed to toughen up their NDCs by the end of 2020, so expect to hear a lot about this. There is currently a very large gap between country’s climate pledges and what it would take to limit global warming to 2C, according to a UN report released on Sunday, so this will be a big area of focus.

2. The coal question. One of the demands of Mr Guterres ahead of the climate summit is that countries stop building new coal power stations after 2020. How many will actually do this? While some developed countries in Europe and North America have already stopped building coal stations there are many others that still have a lot of coal planned — such as India, which is one of the first to speak.

3. What will China say? As the world’s largest emitter and the world’s biggest builder of coal power stations, there has been a lot of focus on China’s climate record. Representing China today will be Foreign Minister Wang Yi, however indications so far are that he will not be prepared to make any big new commitments. In the absence of the US — which will not be presenting at the climate summit — China has been less incentivised to make new climate promises.

Leslie Hook in New York

Protesters target oil bosses at New York cocktail reception

Protesters hold up a puppet depicting BP PLC Chief Executive Officer Bob Dudley during a Global Climate Strike demonstration in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. A global protest movement backed by 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg got underway Friday, with tens of thousands of people across Asia, Africa and Europe demanding action on climate change. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Demonstrators hold up a puppet depicting Bob Dudley, chief executive officer of BP, at a protest in Washington on Friday. The BP head was among a group of oil-and-gas executives at a reception in the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York on Sunday night that also drew protesters. © Bloomberg

Climate protesters targeted the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, a network of energy chief executives, with a demonstration on Sunday night, attempting to disrupt a reception featuring BP chief executive Bob Dudley and other energy heads.

About 40 protesters waved signs and chanted “they knew, they lied, they need to pay”, outside the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York, while energy chief executives attended a cocktail reception inside. ExxonMobil chief executive Darren Woods was seen exiting the hotel through a side entrance with a security detail, avoiding the protesters at the front.

While the scale of Sunday’s protest was much smaller than Friday’s global climate demonstration, in which more than 4m people took to the streets around the world, it highlighted the awkward position of oil-and-gas companies that are trying to go green.

The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative is set to announce new climate plans on Monday in a move timed to coincide with the UN climate summit. However, the tension between climate activists and the energy industry was palpable on Sunday evening as protesters demanded an end to fossil fuels and held signs with Mr Dudley’s face that read: “greedy goblin”.

The OGCI said in a statement: “We fully support peaceful protests and free speech . . . We welcome all dialogue regarding climate change and energy policy that will support the necessary transition to a net zero emissions economy.”

The protesters were not convinced. “Our message is that while people are suffering on the front lines of climate change today, these oil-and-gas executives are sitting on a rooftop, drinking wine, trying to come up with solutions for a crisis they knowingly caused,” said Lena Greenberg, an activist and vegetable farmer, who had tried to get into the event disguised as the waiting staff before being ejected.

The members of the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative include many of the world’s largest oil companies, such as BP, ExxonMobil, Saudi Aramco and Royal Dutch Shell. The group has promised measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as cutting methane leaks from drilling operations and advocating for carbon capture, use and storage.

Leslie Hook and Greg Meyer in New York

Japan’s environment minister makes emissions pledge

TOKYO, JAPAN - SEPTEMBER 11: Japan's newly appointed Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi speaks during a press conference at the prime minister's official residence on September 11, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reshuffled his Cabinet and executives in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party today. (Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)

© Getty

Japan will join a coalition committed to lowering greenhouse gas emissions, its environmental minister said, while denying that the country was blocked from speaking at the UN climate summit because of its reliance on coal-powered electricity. 

Tokyo has been under fire for moving too slowly away from coal, which is a major energy source for Japan. In his first international press conference since becoming environment minister this month, Shinjiro Koizumi said Japan would join the Carbon Neutral Coalition, a group of 19 countries and 32 cities committed to lowering emissions.

Speaking to reporters in New York, he denied that Japan was not invited to speak at the summit because of his country’s coal reliance. “As far as I know Japan got an offer, but the prime minister couldn’t make it” because of scheduling conflicts, Mr Koizumi said. “For Japan, we got an offer, but the prime minister cannot come.” 

The 38-year-old son of the former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi is popular in Japan and frequently leads in opinion polls as a favourite to become the country’s next leader. 

Mr Koizumi said he concurred with attempts to frame combating climate change as “sexy” to make it more relevant to people. “I totally agree with that,” he said. “On tackling such a big-scale issue such as climate change, it’s got to be fun. It’s got to be cool. It’s got to be sexy too.”

Patrick Temple-West in New York

Reports warns on ‘tragic effect’ of record temperature 

A plant is seen in a branch of the Loire river in Montjean-sur-Loire as drought persists in France, September 17, 2019. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

© Reuters

Scientists have issued a stark warning about the impact of rising concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, ahead of the UN climate summit in New York.

The 2015-2019 period has been the warmest five-year-period on record, and the rate of global sea level rise is also accelerating, according to a new report from the UN’s World Meteorological Organization. While annual sea level rise was about 3mm per year during 1997-2006, this has sped up 5mm per year in the May 2014-summer 2019 period.

“Climate change causes and impacts are increasing rather than slowing down,” said Petteri Taalas, head of the WMO and co-chair of the science advisory group of the UN climate summit. “As we have seen this year with tragic effect in the Bahamas and Mozambique, sea level rise and intense tropical storms led to humanitarian and economic catastrophes,” he added.

Global emissions are rising and will not peak until after 2030, based on current country policies, putting the planet on course for 2.9C-3.4C of warming by the year 2100, the report warned.

As about 60 heads of state prepare to take to the stage at the UN climate summit on Monday with new climate announcements, the report — a synthesis of research from eight groups including the UN Environment Program and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — highlighted the most dramatic changes that have already taken place on the planet.

New data on greenhouse gases showed the growth rate for carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere was 20 per cent faster during 2015-2019 than during the previous five-year period, the result of rising emissions.

In the Arctic, multiyear sea ice that stays frozen from year to year is close to disappearing, the report warned, noting that the four lowest years on record for winter sea ice extent occurred during 2015-2019. The accelerating melt of the Greenland ice sheet and global glaciers, in addition to the thermal expansion of the ocean as it gets warmer, have all contributed to a speed-up in the rate of sea level rise.

Leslie Hook in New York

Large group of multinationals sign UN climate pact

Mandatory Credit: Photo by FAZRY ISMAIL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (10420120a) An environmental activist wears a mask with the words 'STOP BURNING STUFF' during a rally part of the international Global Climate Strike in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 21 September 2019. The strikes are happening in cities across the world just days before United Nations' Climate Action Summit on 21 September in New York, where nations will ramp up their ambitions to curb greenhouse gases under the 2015 Paris climate agreement. A second worldwide climate strike is planned for 27 September. Global Climate Strike Rally in Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur - 21 Sep 2019

People in cities around the world took part in the international Global Climate Strike on Friday © FAZRY ISMAIL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

As world leaders began gathering in New York for Monday’s UN Climate Action Summit, a group of multinational companies including Swiss Re, Danone, Ikea, Salesforce and L’Oréal pledged to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions.

With the announcement of 59 new signatories, the UN Global Compact now has 87 companies, with a combined market cap of $2.3tn, on board with its campaign to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees centigrade. The initiative launched earlier this year with 28 companies signing up in July, including Levi Strauss, AstraZeneca and Unilever. 

Companies signing on with the UNGC pledge have agreed to set independently verified “science-based” targets and create decarbonisation plans within 24 months to start bringing their emissions down to keep warming below 1.5C. Signatories also have the option to publicly commit to reaching net-zero emissions by no later than 2050. 

More than 600 companies had already pledged to do their part in limiting global warming to 2C as set out in the 2016 Paris climate accord, but their progress on hitting those goals has been patchy. Only 15 per cent of the world’s largest 500 companies are on track.

Nonetheless, the rapidly rising number of companies taking action on climate change is evidence of a “massive intellectual revolution” in the world of business, said Andrew Steer, a board member at the Science Based Targets Initiative — a coalition between the UNGC and various environmental research and activist groups in charge of vetting the companies signing the pledge. 

“Just five or 10 years ago, the vast majority of CEOs, boards and governments believed it would be nice to do something about climate change but it would require a trade off,” Mr Steer said. “Now, their view is that smart policies on climate change encourage more resource efficiency and [the development of] new technology . . . which can lead to more, rather than less, competitiveness.”

Billy Nauman in New York

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Millions of demonstrators join largest climate protest in history

Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, center, speaks as she takes part during the Climate Strike, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019 in New York. Tens of thousands of protesters joined rallies on Friday as a day of worldwide demonstrations calling for action against climate change began ahead of a U.N. summit in New York. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, center, speaks during the Climate Strike last Friday in New York © AP

Millions of demonstrators took to the streets of the world’s biggest cities on Friday for the largest climate protest in history, ahead of a UN summit at which about 60 countries are expected to make new climate commitments.

The protest movement that began last year when the teenager Greta Thunberg went on a solo “school strike” in Stockholm, has now swelled to cover more than 150 countries. Demonstrations took place in almost all the world’s big cities, from Sydney to New Delhi and Boston.

In New York, students were granted leave to participate in the protest with parental permission. Ms Thunberg has said she wants the protest to be “another tipping point” and hopes that “there will be so many people that we cannot look away any more”. 

Speaking in Lower Manhattan’s Battery Park to some 250,000 people, Ms Thunberg said: “We are a wave of change. Together and united, we are unstoppable. This is what people power looks like. We will rise to the challenge. We will hold those who are most responsible for this crisis accountable. We can and we will.

“If you belong to that small group of people who feel threatened by us then we have some very bad news for you, because this is only the beginning. Change is coming whether they like it or not.”

The scale of Friday’s protests could give a boost to UN secretary-general António Guterres’s efforts to get countries to fall in line with efforts that would limit the worst effects of global warming.

Leslie Hook in New York

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Germany unveils sweeping measures to fight climate change

German Environment Minister Svenja Schulze (R) shakes hands with German Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead a climate cabinet meeting on September 20, 2019 in Berlin. - Chancellor Angela Merkel's government struggles to secure a deal on a broad climate plan for Germany despite overnight talks dragging over 16 hours, as protesters rally in the streets demanding change. (Photo by AXEL SCHMIDT / AFP)AXEL SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images

Environment minister Svenja Schulze, right, shakes hands with German chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of the climate cabinet meeting on Friday in Berlin © AFP

The German government has unveiled sweeping measures to combat climate change in Europe’s largest economy, including the introduction of a carbon price for key sectors such as transport and a €54bn spending package to encourage companies and households to reduce their carbon emissions.

The deal — agreed on Friday after a 15-hour negotiation that lasted into the early hours — is intended to send a strong political signal ahead of next week’s UN climate summit in New York. Political leaders in Berlin hope the measures and commitments will burnish Germany’s increasingly tarnished credentials as a global leader in the fight against climate change — and bolster Angela Merkel’s environmental record in the twilight years of her chancellorship. 

Ms Merkel and her colleagues hailed the agreement as a breakthrough, with environment minister Svenja Schulze describing it as a “new beginning for Germany’s climate policy”.

But there was sharp criticism from environmental groups and economists, who took aim in particular at the relatively low carbon price imposed by the government. 

Under the German proposal, companies that produce and sell petrol, coal, heating oil and similar fuels will have to buy certificates to offset the carbon dioxide emissions from their products. Such a system already exists at the European level, though only for heavy industry, aviation and the energy sector. The German carbon price, however, will be significantly lower than the current EU price, at least initially — starting at €10 per tonne in 2021 and rising to €35 by 2025.

Tobias Buck in Berlin

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FT View: leaders have yet to grasp the enormity of the climate task

20 September 2019, Hamburg, Dusseldorf: Activists attend a protest calling for more action to help stop climate change. Photo: Federico Gambarini/dpa

A climate change protest in Hamburg, Germany. Despite more than 30 years of international efforts to stem the greenhouse gases driving global warming, emissions have accelerated © DPA

World leaders gather in New York on Monday for a UN climate change summit with little precedent. It comes amid a conspicuous shift in public sentiment that was plain to see on Friday, when vast numbers of students were joined by adults in dozens of countries worldwide in a global climate strike.

The protesters make a serious point: despite more than 30 years of international efforts to stem the greenhouse gases driving global warming, emissions have accelerated. Signs of a political response have begun to emerge in the form of climate emergency declarations and targets to cut the net emission of greenhouse gases to zero. Yet leaders are only beginning to understand the sweeping, economy-wide policies required to meet these bolder goals. They need to grasp the enormity of the climate change challenge — and put it at the centre of all policymaking.

Decades have passed since countries first began to acknowledge the need for action. At least 147 have policies to support renewable energy. More than 50 have electric car incentives. More than 40 have a price on carbon emissions.

Yet too many have also supported the continued extraction and use of fossil fuels that have helped drive the average global temperature up by about 1C since the industrial revolution. Leaders regularly make stirring speeches at climate summits. Then, like drunks at an Alcoholics Anonymous convention who vow abstinence then visit a bar on the way home, they go back and implement energy, taxation, transport and economic policies that amount to business as usual on emissions.

This must end. Fossil fuels — oil, gas and coal — have brought remarkable prosperity and underpin the livelihoods of millions of workers worldwide. The task of gradually removing them in a fair and financially sustainable manner is Herculean.

The good news is that the cost of cleaner energy sources has plummeted. Investors have been rewarded for backing companies that have started to meet a powerful consumer appetite for plant-based burgers and milk substitutes. Polls show public support for concerted action is rising in many countries. This time last year, Greta Thunberg was an obscure Swedish schoolgirl. Last week the young climate activist who inspired the global school strike movement spoke at a US congressional committee and met former US president Barack Obama.

The Editorial Board

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