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Inside the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where the audience watches two large video monitors flanking UN Secretary-General António Guterres onstage.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres speaks at the Climate Action Summit on September 23, 2019 in New York City.
Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Greta Thunberg, the UN summit, and a gridlocked DC: Another day of dramatic climate action, in photos

The UN met in New York to discuss climate goals. Activists want them to try harder.

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story.


The global youth climate strike on Friday, September 20, drew millions to the streets in more than 150 countries to protest weak corporate and government action on climate change. On Monday, activists kept up the pressure by blocking intersections in Washington, DC, and demonstrating in New York as the United Nations met for the Climate Action Summit.

UN Secretary General António Guterres called the summit to prod member countries to make more ambitious commitments to cut carbon emissions in line with the recommendations from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. Early reports suggest the commitments so far are mixed.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg gave a dramatic speech at the summit, scolding heads of state in particularly harsh terms. “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” Thunberg said. “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about are your fairy tales of money and eternal economic growth.”

Thunberg and President Donald Trump were also briefly in a room together at the UN, leading to this stunning scene:

Also today: Thunberg joined a group of 15 young people from around the world suing five countries — Germany, France, Brazil, Argentina, and Turkey — for not taking enough action on climate change and violating their human rights.

There was action elsewhere. In DC, protesters with Extinction Rebellion, Black Lives Matter DMV, and other groups in Washington, DC, blocked off several intersections during the morning rush hour commute, disrupting traffic.

In all, it’s another dramatic day for the climate movement. More people than ever before see climate change as a threat. Meanwhile, global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. It’s no surprise people are demanding action. Here are some scenes from today’s climate action and protest.

A man does a split in a traffic intersection while a crowd behind him holds a sign that reads “Stop Pipelines Now.”
Climate change protesters block traffic during morning rush hour in DC. The protesters are urging climate action and want the reallocation of the budget away from the military to fund a Green New Deal.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
President Trump in the audience at the UN Climate Summit.
President Trump attends the UN Climate Action Summit. The UN would not allow him or the leaders of Brazil, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Japan to speak at the event because the five countries are building or financing new fossil fuel power plants or are neglecting their emissions commitments.
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
President Trump is seen in the audience at the UN Climate Action Summit.
Trump didn’t speak at the UN Climate Action Summit. But he briefly attended it.
Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images
A woman holding a child at a climate protest also holds a sign that reads, “Just another shit-scared mother.”
A mother holds her child during a protest organized by Mothers Rise Up at Downing Street in London, England.
Aaron Chown/PA Images via Getty Images
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and French President Emmanuel Macron sit with others around a meeting table at the UN Climate Summit.
Chancellor Angela Merkel (second from right) meets with the prime minister of Great Britain, Boris Johnson (right), and French President Emmanuel Macron (second from left) during the UN Climate Summit.
Kay Nietfeld/picture alliance via Getty Images
French President Emmanuel Macron onstage at the UN Climate Summit holds up his fist.
“I think [youth activists] identified an absolute urgency that we have to respond to here,” said President of France Emmanuel Macron on Monday at the Climate Action Summit.
Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images
German Chancellor Angela Merkel onstage speaking from the podium at the UN Climate Summit.
Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel said at the summit we “have the obligation to put our technology, the best of our knowledge, and our finances into stopping global warming as we know it.” Though critics say her plan for Germany doesn’t go far enough.
Getty Images
Climate protesters seeking to block traffic on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, DC, hold up a puppet skull with hands that read “Oil kills.”
Climate protesters block traffic on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, DC.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
The General Assembly Hall during the UN Climate Action Summit showing a firefighter watching a blaze on the huge video screen.
The General Assembly Hall during the Climate Action Summit.
Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images
The General Assembly Hall during the UN Climate Action Summit showing a man’s face on the huge video screen.
The United Nations expects more than 60 heads of state and government to present concrete, new plans to reduce CO2 emissions in short speeches lasting a maximum of three minutes.
Kay Nietfeld/picture alliance via Getty Images
A climate change protester holds up a sign showing nuclear reactors and the word, “Resist.”
Climate change protesters block morning traffic near the US Capitol.
Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley speaking onstage at the UN Climate Action Summit.
Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, President of the Republic of Palau Tommy Esang Remengesau Jr, Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister, Allen Michael Chastanet, Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and International Renewable Energy Agency Director General, Francesco La Camera at the UN Climate Action Summit.
Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres speaking from behind the podium at the Climate Action Summit.
“My generation has failed in its responsibility to protect the planet,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres at the Climate Action Summit.
Stephanie Keith/Getty Images
Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi on stage during the UN Climate Action Summit.
Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi speaks during the UN Climate Action Summit.
Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images
Climate protestors march down a street in Washington, DC, carrying a banner that reads, “Tell the truth.”
Climate protestors march in Washington, DC.
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Climate activist Greta Thunberg scolding world leaders during the UN Climate Action Summit.
Climate activist Greta Thunberg scolded world leaders during the UN Climate Action Summit: “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”
Stephanie Keith/Getty Images
Activist Greta Thunberg and 13 other children from across the world present their official human rights complaint on the climate crisis at a press conference.
Activist Greta Thunberg attends a press conference where 16 children from across the world present their official human rights complaint on the climate crisis to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.
Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images
A boy holds a protest sign that reads, “We can do this!” beside a woman whose sign reads, “Love your mother” with a picture of the Earth.
A young protestor holds a placard while demonstrating in Washington, DC.
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
The United Nations General Assembly Hall displays faces from around the world on its huge screens during the Climate Action Summit 2019.
The General Assembly Hall is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 in the United Nations General Assembly Hall.
Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

Listen to Today, Explained

In just one week, she inspired global protests, mean-mugged President Trump, and chastised world leaders at the United Nations. David Wallace-Wells, editor at New York magazine, explains the rise of Greta Thunberg.

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