West Cork teen urges Taoiseach to turn words into action at New York climate summit

West Cork teen urges Taoiseach to turn words into action at New York climate summit
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with teen West Cork climate change campaigner Alicia O'Sullivan in New York. 

CAMPAIGNING West Cork teenager Alicia O’Sullivan has told Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to turn “words into action” on climate change.

Alicia, aged 18, was nominated by the Department of Foreign Affairs as the Irish representative to attend the first UN Youth Climate Action Summit in New York.

She met with Mr Varadkar this afternoon in the Big Apple and the Taoiseach said he was inspired by her.

“She’s asked me to bring back the energy and passion of the young people here in the UN so we can turn words into climate action.” 

He later told the UN General Assembly that the Government’s new carbon tax will be used to fund new jobs and support those faced with higher energy costs.

“We are inspired by children and young people who have embraced this cause and keep it at the top of the agenda. We have listened to the views of our people through a Citizens’ Assembly and developed responses by consensus through an All-Party Parliamentary Committee,” Mr Varadkar said.

“Now with our Climate Action Plan we know what we are going to do. Next year, we will underpin it through new climate action legislation including carbon budgeting. We have a carbon tax and a cross-party agreement to increase it to €80 per tonne by 2030. From next year, all new revenues raised from carbon tax will be ring-fenced to fund climate action and just transition."

Meanwhile, in an impassioned speech at the UN summit, 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg told world leaders that they are not doing enough to save the planet.

Environmental activist Greta Thunberg, of Sweden, addresses the Climate Action Summit in the United Nations General Assembly.
Environmental activist Greta Thunberg, of Sweden, addresses the Climate Action Summit in the United Nations General Assembly.

The Swedish teenager, who travelled to the US by yacht to avoid flying, said she should not be up on stage, but should be in school on the other side of the ocean.

She said: "You come to us young people for hope - how dare you? You have stolen my dreams, my childhood with your empty words.

"People are suffering, people are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing, we are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and the fairy tale of endless economic growth. How dare you?

"How dare you continue to look away, and come here saying that you are doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight."

She told the gathered politicians she did not believe they understood the situation, because if they did and continued to fail to act, they would be "evil" and she refused to believe that.

The teenager set out the scale of the challenge in cutting emissions to keep temperature rises to 1.5C, beyond which scientists have warned the impacts of climate change become much more severe - warning that at current rates, the remaining budget for emissions would be used up in eight-and-a-half years.

And she warned that the situation could not be solved by "business as usual" and some technological solutions.

"The eyes of all future generations are on you. If you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you."

She added: "Right now, right here is where we draw the line. The world is waking up, change is coming, whether you like it or not."


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