Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg had harsh words for world leaders during a speech at Italy’s Youth4Climate summit this week, saying failed leadership had resulted in 30 years of “empty words and promises” that amounted to a generational “betrayal.”
The 18-year-old spoke at the event Tuesday, which comes just a few weeks before the United Nations holds its 2021 climate change conference, or COP26, next month.
In an impassioned speech, Thunberg threw statements made by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, U.S. President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi back at them, saying they amounted to simply: “Blah blah blah.”
“‘We must find a smooth transition to a low carbon economy.’ ‘There is no planet B.’ There is no planet blah. Blah blah blah,” she said, quoting political efforts by the leaders. “This is not about some expensive, politically correct green act of bunny hugging or blah blah blah. ‘Build back better,’ blah blah blah, ‘Green economy,’ blah blah blah.”
“This is all we hear from our so-called leaders,” she continued. “Words. Words that sound great but so far has led to no action. Our hopes and dreams drown in their empty words and promises.”
The UN has released a series of troubling reports in recent months foreshadowing a bleak future even if the planet meets many of its promised emissions cuts. An assessment in August found the burning of fossil fuels had already locked in intensive climate change for the next 30 years, consequences of which could result in more frequent and more severe environmental disasters including heat waves, storms, droughts and wildfires.
The body’s secretary-general called the document a “code red for humanity.”
Thunberg on Tuesday said leaders’ ongoing pledges to address climate change had come up short for decades. Young people at the Youth4Climate summit will create a list of recommendations this week that will then be taken to the UN’s COP26 next month where emissions targets set for 2030 are expected to be hashed out.
“Right now we are still very much speeding in the wrong direction. Our leaders’ intentional lack of action is a betrayal to all present and future generations,” she said. “The people in power cannot claim that they are trying, because they are clearly not. “
“If this is what they consider to be climate action then we don’t want it,” she continued. “They are clearly not listening to us, and they never have.”
Hope, Thunberg concluded, lies with the people. Watch her full address above.
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