The Global Climate Action Summit that took place on September 23rd, showcased new initiatives by governments, businesses, and civil society to increase their commitments to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement, and working toward reducing emissions to essentially zero by mid-century. The event also provided a platform for countries and businesses to demonstrate how they will reduce emissions by at least 45 percent by 2030, and a target of achieving carbon neutrality shortly after. The United Nations was behind the summit, bringing countries together to discuss what global changes are needed. This is the type of global diplomacy needed if we are ever going to save the planet.
In the events leading up to the summit, an estimated 4 million people took part in a strike across the world in an organized effort to pressure international governments to do something about climate change. The efforts began in South-East Asia and Oceania, with strikes occurring from Melbourne to Quezon City. Strikes could also be found on almost every continent, including from West Asia, Africa, Northern Europe, and North America. Many smaller cities and towns across the world also participated in the strikes as a reminder to us all that smaller rural towns are often the worst affected by climate change. A notable exception to the stikes was China, one of the largest producers of carbon emissions by volume.
Many youths and young adults had the opportunity to have their voice heard at the UN Youth Climate Summit, which took place a few days before the Global Summit. Many young activists from across the world spoke up, like Komal Kumar from Fiji, who demanded action from policy makers with the perspective of someone from the “frontlines” of climate change. Her country has contributed little to carbon emissions, but faces many ecological issues because of overall global emissions. Wanjuhi Njoroge from Kenya focused on restoring forest cover in Kenya. Bruno Rodriguez from Argentina called climate change the “political and cultural crisis of our time.” And of course, Greta Thunberg spoke, encouraging her fellow activists to address their countries’ leaders at the Climate Action Summit the coming Monday. The State of Youth platform and ActNow platform were both unveiled as means to encourage young people to get involved in the climate action movement.
At the UN Climate Action Summit later in the week, speakers from across the world shared their countries’ plans. However, many countries only provided plans for comparatively incremental changes to what their promises were in the Paris Climate Accords, with the United States not participating in the discussions. Only a few countries unveiled drastic changes, like Germany, which unveiled a $60 billion dollar plan to increase clean power over the next 10 years. 77 other countries announced efforts to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, but did not give specifics: Russia announced it would ratify the Paris Climate Accords while not saying anything about reducing its petroleum emissions, and India announced it would increase its share of renewable energy by 2022 while not making any promises regarding its reliance on coal production.
The Global Climate Action Strike became the biggest environmental protest in history. Roughly 7.6 million people participated. In the recent climate strikes we saw people of all ages, young and old, come out to advocate to save the environment. The strikes sent massive shockwaves towards world governments, pressing them on environmental issues, bringing climate change to the forefront of current issues. With the recent waves being made by the movement, climate change has even become a question for future presidential candidates in the USA. The future generation seems to be leading the charge toward a better future and a healthier earth.
How does this affect us as an organization? As the only collateral in the field of architecture that is run by students for students, the AIAS is in a unique position that allows us to advocate for the changes that need to happen to preserve our planet. Our industry accounts for roughly 40% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States (estimate by the United States Environmental Protection Agency). We must have stricter regulations in favor of responsible methods and practices. Our planet is crying out for help. It is our responsibility to ensure that those cries do not go unanswered and that there will still be a world left for our generation and the generations that follow.
Testimonials From AIAS Members
“My name is Lukas Kugler and I am a second year B.Arch student at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. On September 20th, I took part in the Global Climate Strike along with many of my friends. We joined a massive group of activists as we met at Grant Park on the edge of Loop before the march. Thousands of people converged on this park with signs. There were people of all ages and genders in attendance. This issue was clearly not just an issue of a certain demographic of people, but an issue of all of us collectively. We began by marching through the park and over into the Loop, taking over the street as we moved along. Chants were exclaimed. ‘The oceans are rising; so are we!’ ‘What do we want? Climate Justice! When do we want it? Now!’ As we marched and chanted, news helicopters flew above and photographers stood along the sides of the streets. We passed under the “L” tracks, and people climbed the poles of the tracks to take pictures or build up the chants. We ended at Federal Plaza, filling the plaza with protestors, continuing to chant. There was a lineup of speakers including a Congressman, a local high school student, an architect, and more who concluded the event.
“After leaving the event, I later reflected personally on the event. Being my first ever strike or protest I’ve partaken in, I was uncomfortable at first. I’ve never been one to vocalize my beliefs in such a public format and that’s where my uncomfortability and vulnerability came from. As I walked with my friends surrounded by passionate people calling out chants I slowly began to chant along, half-heartedly at first, but it was a start. Eventually I gained confidence and became more comfortable. By the end I was chanting along with the crowd, however still somewhat uncomfortable. The strike was a new experience pushing me out of my comfort zone, but for a good, urgent cause. I am proud to say I went out of my comfort zone to advocate for one of the most important crises we face: climate change.” – Lukas Kugler, IIT
“My name is Himesh Patel. I go to NYIT-Manhattan. I’m a 5th-year architecture student in undergrad. This is my story on the Global Climate Change Strike – NYC.
“Sustainability is one of my biggest passions and through the last few years I’ve learned so much about possible ways we can incorporate the topic into architecture. I’ve also gotten into politics and learned how many policy issues there are on a global scale. We sometimes stay in the studio mindset so long that we forget what’s going on in the world and how it will affect us. It’s so easy to stay in the present, but we must look on towards the future. A bunch of my classmates wanted to use the climate strike as a way of getting out of the studio, which of course I wanted! I then realized how blinded I’ve been by everything going on that I forgot the change I’m working so hard to make.
“My thesis professor allowed students to go to the strike. Only a few students actually cared about going so I went alone. It was hot outside but I could feel and hear the power. The strike began with a walk in downtown manhattan and ended in Battery Park. There were 1000’s of people of all ages and genders there, as well as from all around the globe. You can tell unlike so many issues today, it wasn’t a race or gender issue. It was a human issue. It was honestly a shock to see teens having left school to participate in this global movement. When I was their age, I didn’t even know what global warming really was! I also saw families there who brought their kids to witness the powerful movement. Speakers like Greta Thunberg spoke, as well as Willow and Jaden Smith. Greta Thunberg has been in the social eye for a second, but her impact has broken so much glass. At only 16, she calls out big businesses and confronts politicians to stop stuffing their pockets. Another speaker was a teen from Bangladesh. She brought light to the country’s flooding issues and warned of the effects that it will continue having on her country. This was something that really pierced through my heart and has been fuel for my thesis. Overall, it was a powerful day in history. I’m just glad I was part of it.” – Himesh Patel, NYIT-Manhattan
“While on a studio trip to Genoa, Italy, I was walking with my classmates and professor down the Via Garibaldi on our way to study three famous palazzos, when we noticed many young students walking past us with signs. A couple minutes later, a group of middle aged men on bikes rode by us with signs asking for peace, climate justice, and human rights, all promoting sustainable transportation.
“Our first stop on this trip was to the Palazzo Doria Tursi which serves as Genoa’s City Hall. Trying to get there, we were met with a mass of people forming outside the entrance to the hall- we had stumbled directly onto the frontlines of the climate strike in Genoa. Pushing our way through the entrance to the Palazzo to the interior courtyard, we found security geared up and ready to go control that crowd, but they seemed to be unconcerned by the climate march and made no effort to push the strikers back. The most inspiring thing I saw was the local politicians of Genoa running down the grand staircase inside this city hall to watch, photograph, and film the strike. They looked like they wanted to be a part of it. One female politician grabbed a megaphone and started speaking directly to the strikers. My professor translated, saying she was promising to address climate issues.
“We eventually found a terrace on the second floor of the City Hall overlooking the street where the strike was passing through. The sheer amount of students and people of all ages was amazing and I couldn’t see the end of the strike. I cheered them on from above, and even though I experienced a language barrier in Northern Italy, many of the younger students looked up at me and cheered back, pumping their fists in solidarity. The connection I made with the citizens of Genoa that day, though I couldn’t understand much of what they were saying, is something I will never forget. It drove home the fact that there are no barriers between the citizens of the global community regarding this issue. Climate change effects us all, no matter what country you are from, what language you speak, and what beliefs you have. The Earth will be heard.” – Shannon DeFranza, Roger Williams University; AIAS Advocate 2019; Studying Abroad in Florence; account from a strike in Genoa
“The event itself consisted of a march that ended in a public plaza where the strike took place. People were gathered with signs and covered the plaza. The strike lasted most of the day, with the most activity between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm. It was very refreshing to be surrounded by people who care and are committed to making a difference. The strike was for students, but all were welcome to attend, and people of all ages showed up. After marching across Florence from Santa Maria Novella, speakers led the chants in Piazza della Santissima Annunziata. Highlights of the day included the sense of community, the progressive attitude towards saving the planet, and a sign that read ‘I want a hot date, not a hot planet.” – Cooper Moore, Kent State University; Studying Abroad in Florence