Climate summit: You have stolen my childhood, Greta Thunberg
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- Climate summit: You have stolen my childhood, Greta Thunberg tells world leaders
- Greta Thunberg accused world leaders of stealing her childhood with their “empty words” in an emotional speech at the start of the UN climate summit in New York.
- The 16-year-old Swedish activist also said that they would be “evil” if they failed to implement the drastic cuts in emissions that scientists say are necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change.
- Ms Thunberg, who sailed from Plymouth to New York on a “zero carbon” yacht, had been invited by Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, to launch the summit by directly addressing world leaders.
- Her speech was angry and tearful, repeatedly using the phrase “how dare you” when admonishing the leaders for claiming their commitments on emissions were an adequate response to climate change.
- “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,” she said. “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”
- The UN prefaced Ms Thunberg’s speech by showing leaders a video of last Friday’s climate protests around the world, which she had inspired with her weekly “school strikes” outside the Swedish parliament.
- She attacked leaders who suggested their countries could not afford faster cuts in emissions.
- “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth,” she said.
- The science on climate change had been “crystal clear” for more than 30 years, she added.
- “If you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe.
- “How dare you pretend that this can be solved with just business as usual and some technical solutions.”
- She told the leaders they were “still not mature enough to tell it like it is”.
- She added: “You are failing us but young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. If you choose to fail us I say we will never forgive you.”
- Mr Guterres had warned governments before the summit, which he convened, that they would have to offer action plans to qualify to speak.
- In his opening remarks, he tried to capture the urgency of climate change: “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.
- “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.
- World leaders including the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, President Macron of France and the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, were due to address the one-day gathering, alongside companies working to promote renewable energy.
- President Trump and President Bolsonaro of Brazil, both climate change sceptics, had not been expected to attend, but Mr Trump was seen in the audience as some leaders delivered their speeches after remarks by youth activists.
- With extreme weather, thawing permafrost and rising sea levels unfolding much faster than expected, scientists say the urgency of the climate crisis has intensified since the 2015 Paris accord.
- The agreement will enter a crucial implementation phase next year after another round of negotiations in Chile in December. Pledges made so far under the agreement are nowhere near enough to avert catastrophic warming, scientists say, and last year carbon emissions hit a record high.
- Over the past year, Mr Guterres has called for no new coal plants to be built after 2020, a phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies and for countries to map out how to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
- While some countries have made progress, some of the biggest emitting countries remain far behind.
- In a measure of the gap between government action and the ever-louder alarms sounded by climate scientists, the United Nations Development Programme said that 14 nations representing a quarter of global emissions have signalled that they do not intend to revise present climate plans by 2020.
- Mr Trump briefly visited the hall where a succession of world leaders are making speeches throughout the day. He listened to Mrs Merkel’s detailed pledges, including going coal-free, and left without commenting.
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