Greta Thunberg and children from around the world petition the UN Secretary-General to declare a climate emergency at the UN

November 10, 2021 (Washington, D.C.) – Today, Greta Thunberg and 13 other youth climate activists from around the world submitted a petition to UN Secretary-General António Guterres asking that he and the leaders of all UN agencies declare a systemwide UN emergency on the climate crisis, as they did in 2020 on the COVID-19 crisis.

The petition applauds the Secretary-General’s leadership in sounding the alarm on climate change. On December 12, 2020, Secretary-General Guterres called on “leaders worldwide to declare a State of Climate Emergency in their countries until carbon neutrality is reached.” The petitioners are calling on the Secretary-General to do the same at the UN.

The United Nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic provides a blueprint for climate action. The Secretary-General, the Interagency Standing Committee, and all UN agency leaders declared a “Level 3 Emergency” and mobilized a UN Comprehensive Response and a Crisis Management Team.

The petitioners urge them to mobilize the same emergency response to the climate crisis, which threatens even more profound and lasting devastation. To date, the UN has not marshaled its full institutional powers to confront climate change. Declaring a Level 3 Emergency would mean placing climate action at the top of the agenda for each UN agency. This would ensure that UN resources and personnel can be deployed rapidly to dispatch aid and scientific expertise to countries most vulnerable to climate disasters. It would also ensure that the UN can help countries meet their emission reduction pledges, on an urgent, emergency basis.   

“By submitting this petition to the Secretary-General I believe that we will get justice, as we all have seen how world leaders are only making big promises at the COP26,” said petitioner Ridhima Pandey, a fourteen-year old climate activist from India.

“The Secretary-General announced at COP26 that he stands with the young people who are leading the climate action army. There is no better way for the Secretary-General to show his solidarity than to declare a UN-wide emergency on the climate crisis,” said Scott Gilmore, a human rights lawyer at Hausfeld acting for the petitioners.

The youth petitioners include Litokne Kabua from the Marshall Islands, where rising sea levels threaten to render his homeland uninhabitable. They also include Deborah Adegbile from Lagos, Nigeria, where heat waves and air pollution have repeatedly triggered asthma attacks requiring hospitalization, and Carl Smith from the Yupiak nation in Alaska, whose millenia-old fishing and hunting traditions are under threat. They are joined by Chiara Sacchi (Argentina), Catarina Lorenzo (Brazil), Iris Duquesne (France & USA), Raina Ivanova (Germany), Ridhima Pandey (India), Ranton Anjain (Marshall Islands), Carlos Manuel (Palau), Ayakha Melithafa (South Africa), and Raslen Jbeili (Tunisia).  

This petition follows on the heels of the October 11, 2021 decision of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to dismiss a human rights case filed by the same youth petitioners in September 2019, Sacchi et al. v. Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, and Turkey (the “Children v. Climate Crisis Case”). The Committee’s landmark ruling recognized that states are legally obligated under the Convention on the Rights of the Child to reduce emissions and held that those obligations extend to children outside their borders. However, the Committee declined to act on an urgent, emergency basis and ruled that the case could not be heard until the youth petitioners had exhausted all appeals in national courts.

Read the Petitioners' stories.

For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact:

Deborah Schwartz
Media Relations
240 355 8838

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This material is distributed by Hausfeld LLP on behalf of Environmental Youth Activists.  Additional information is available at the Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.