Greta Thunberg opens U.N. summit by berating world leaders for failing to take strong measures to combat climate change
UNITED NATIONS, Sept 23 (Reuters) – Teenage activist Greta Thunberg angrily denounced world leaders on Monday for failing to tackle climate change, unleashing the outrage felt by millions of her peers in the heart of the United Nations by demanding: “How dare you?”
The Swedish campaigner’s brief address electrified the start of a summit aimed at mobilising government and business to break international paralysis over carbon emissions, which hit record highs last year despite decades of warnings from scientists.
“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you?” said Thunberg, 16, her voice quavering with emotion.
“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” she said.
Inspired by Thunberg’s solitary weekly protest outside the Swedish parliament a year ago, millions of young people poured onto the streets around the globe last Friday to demand governments attending the summit take emergency action.
“I was very struck by the emotion in the room when some of the young people spoke earlier,” French President Emmanuel Macron told the U.N. Climate Action Summit. “I also want to play my role in listening to them. I think that no political decision maker can remain deaf to this call for justice between generations.”
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who organised the one-day event to boost the 2015 Paris Agreement to combat global warming, had warned leaders only to turn up if they came armed with concrete action plans, not empty speeches.
“Nature is angry. And we fool ourselves if we think we can fool nature, because nature always strikes back, and around the world nature is striking back with fury,” said Guterres, a former Portuguese prime minister.
“There is a cost to everything. But the biggest cost is doing nothing. The biggest cost is subsidising a dying fossil fuel industry, building more and more coal plants, and denying what is plain as day: that we are in a deep climate hole, and to get out we must first stop digging,” he said.
Nevertheless, there were few new proposals from governments for the kind of rapid change climate scientists say is now needed to avert devastating impacts from warming. The summit has, by contrast, been marked by a flurry of pledges from business, pension funds, insurers and banks to do more.
“We have broken the cycle of life,” said Emmanuel Faber, chief executive of French food group Danone, who announced a “One Planet” initiative with a group of 19 major food companies to transition towards more sustainable farming.
“We need your support for shifting agricultural subsidies from killing life into supporting biodiversity,” Faber said.