10 Things that Happened at the UN Youth Climate Summit 2019

September 21 marked a remarkable day in history, as the highly anticipated inaugural UN Youth Climate Summit took place. 

Here are 10 important things that you need to know about the first-ever UN Youth Climate Summit : 

  1. Worldwide strike for climate change

    The Friday before the summit, millions of young people from North America to Southeast Asia took to the streets worldwide to make a stand for Mother Earth. Armed with their homemade signs, their voice, and their social media accounts, they sternly and vocally delivered their message to world leaders: To do something to combat climate change – and do it faster.
Global Movement for Climate Change
Thai students joined the global movement outside of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment in Bangkok. Thailand (Image : Reuters /Soe Zeya Tun)

In almost all the continents of the world (excluding Antartica), students left their classrooms, young professionals took off work to demand that their government, and international organizations, act with more urgency to cut carbon dioxide emissions, fossil fuel usage, and the degradation of our forests and oceans.

Although these rallies and demonstrations proved to be vocal and widespread, it is still unclear whether it has made an impact on the world leaders, compelling them to act on it. But the world and the next generation remain hopeful.

2. Greta’s Grand Entrance 

Instead of taking a carbon dioxide-emitting, gas-guzzling plane to the UN Youth Climate Change Summit, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg took a zero-carbon boat to travel from Sweden to New York, to further spread awareness to the dangers of rising pollution rates and global emissions caused by us, humans.

Despite the tight quarters and lack of creature comforts, she sailed with her father, a two-man crew and a cameraperson on the 60-foot Malizia II racing yacht with solar panels and underwater turbines that generated electric power.

Greta Thunberg, sailed into New York Harbor by a 60-foot Malizia II racing yacht with solar panels and underwater turbines that generated electric power (image & : UN News)

Upon arrival into the New York Harbor on the 21st of September, as a show of appreciation and solidarity for her mission toward a better world by 2030, the UN greeted her with a fleet of 17 sailboats, all with sails representing each of the Sustainable Development Goals on their sails.

3. Antonio Guterres gave some pretty bad news

UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, appeared briefly to open the event alongside Greta Thunberg. In his speech, and tweets after the event, he shared some key statistics about the climate crisis.

In 2018 there was a 2% growth in CO2 emissions to a record 37 billion tonnes. Climate impacts are hitting harder and sooner than previously predicted. And to meet the temperature limit outlined in the Paris Agreement (to limit global warming to 1.5º Celsius above pre-industrial levels), we need to increase our efforts by fivefold.

Mr. Guterres urges countries to create actual meaningful change, such as vowing to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, cutting fossil fuel subsidies and ceasing construction of coal-fired power plants.

  1. Influencing Politics

Governments across the globe still support and subsidize oil, coal, and natural gas over the cleaner alternatives for energy. If we want to achieve that zero-emission goal by 2050, we seriously need to consider and switch to clean energy immediately. This climate crisis is solvable if politicians and leaders have the will to so.

  1. Earth-Saving Technologies

Have you heard of an app that can help increase your yield by 300%? Well, it’s true! The developers of Wikilimo, who were announced as the winner of the UN Summer of Solutions competition, are aiming to help small farmers in the Sub-Saharan African farmers protect their crops from the ever-changing weather patterns brought about by climate change by using crowd-sourced data to provide weather, pest, and agri-insights.

A citizen science tool for promoting climate-resilient agriculture through crowd sourced last mile informatics (image & caption : Wikilimo)

Companies who use the internet and technology for their business ventures rely on giant data farms to store information. By 2025, these farms, which consume a huge expanse of land, will have used more than 25% of our global energy. This is scary. Luckily, Monika Seyfried, and the people over at “Grow Your Own Cloud” say that they can store your data in the DNA of plants. Their all-new natural storage system has the potential to fit all the world’s data in just over 1 kg of DNA!

Find out more about how Wikilimo app works here

6. The Green Wall

In Africa, youth leaders of the greatgreenwall.org project plan to build, well, an 8,000km ‘green wall’ across the continent. It seems insane until you hear that it has already reached 15% completion!

When finished, it will be the largest living structure on the planet, three times the size of the Great Barrier Reef. It will be a groundbreaking solution to some of the urgent threats facing the planet, including climate change, drought, famine, conflict, and migration.


  1. Climate Change: A Matter of Life and Death

In the island nations on the Pacific Ring of Fire (South and Southeast Asia), climate change IS life-threatening. Hundreds of people die each year and thousands of families have to be relocated because of the damage that typhoons and earthquakes have on their homes, their communities.

Extreme weather has an extreme toll on the lives, and livelihood, and these people.

Komal Kumar, a climate change advocate from Fiji, warns the global leaders, “We will hold you accountable. And if you do not remember, we will mobilize to vote you out”.

  1. The Responsibility of Large Corporations

100 of the world’s largest companies are responsible for 71% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, 20 of the most powerful countries are responsible for 80% of carbon emissions. These companies and countries were hotly discussed during the event. Thankfully, 87 of these have signed up to a pledge to take action and align their business with what scientists say is needed to limit the worst impacts of climate change. Let’s hope they’d follow through.

(image credit : Patrick Hendry via Unsplash)

9.Life of Plastic, Not Fantastic

Let’s recycle to save our Mother Earth!” But does recycling make that big of a dent in the world’s waste management?

Recent data shows that only 16% of plastic is recycled, 25% is incinerated, and 55% ends up in a landfill (who knows what happens to the remaining 4%).  Edgar Meija, a young innovator, shows his idea of using plastic waste as a material for 1D printing. 

He said that up-cycling plastic with this method may become the norm in households in the future, thereby reducing plastic waste significantly.

Edgar presented an idea of converting the plastics into filament, giving a second life to single-use plastics (image : Khalifa University)

10. Our little changes can spark a huge difference

Every one of us is responsible for doing our little part to combat the climate crisis. With the UN’s latest campaign, the ActNow app, we can share their climate-friendly choices, and encourage others to make the switch, to a more sustainable lifestyle. Want to join? Download the app at un.org/actnow.

The climate crisis is scary and overwhelming, but the creative solutions presented at the summit give us hope.

To quote Greta Thunberg :

 “The world is united, and young people unstoppable.”

The demand for actual, meaningful climate action was loud and clear, let’s just hope that the corporations, politicians, and world leaders hear it.