In yet another fiery speech to attendees of an elite annual summit, climate activist Greta Thunberg made clear on Monday that young people aren’t backing down from demands that world leaders treat human-caused climate change like the emergency it is and pursue policies that meet the scale of the crisis.
The 18-year-old Fridays for Future founder delivered a speech at the Davos Agenda, the first virtual annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF). The event typically draws political and business leaders to Davos, Switzerland, but shifted to an online format this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
At past summits, Thunberg has called on attendees to take action to “safeguard the future living conditions for humankind” and called them out for ignoring previous warnings. “One year ago, I came to Davos and told your that our house is on fire,” she said in 2020. “Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fueling the flames by the hour. We are still telling you to panic, and to act as if you loved your children above all else.”
This year, in her video address, Thunberg introduced herself and then explained: “I’m not here to make deals. You see, I don’t belong to any financial interest or political party. So I can’t bargain or negotiate. I’m only here to once again remind you of the emergency we are in. The crisis that you and your predecessors have created and inflicted upon us. The crisis that you continue to ignore.”
“I’m here to remind you of the promises that you have made to your children and grandchildren. And to tell you that we are not willing to compromise on the very minimum safety levels that still remain,” she said. “The climate and ecological crisis can unfortunately no longer be solved within today’s systems. According to the current best available science that’s no longer an opinion; that’s a fact.”
The two-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee, who gained significant attention for her solitary protests outside the Swedish Parliament at age 15 and sparked a global movement, reiterated messages that she and other Fridays for Future activists have repeatedly made in recent months: the world’s climate-conscious youth are tired of “empty promises,” countries’ current plans to cut planet-heating emissions are inadequate, and political leaders need to wake up and #FaceTheClimateEmergency.
While paying lip service to the “existential climate emergency,” world leaders “set up vague, hypothetical, distant targets way into the future,” Thunberg noted. “Targets based on loopholes and incomplete numbers. Targets like ‘net-zero emissions 2050.’ Targets that equal surrender. It’s like waking up in the middle of the night, seeing your house on fire, and then deciding to wait 10, 20, or 30 years before you call the fire department while labeling those trying to wake people up ‘alarmists.'”
“We understand that the world is complex and that change doesn’t happen overnight,” she said, speaking as part of the youth movement for climate action. “But you’ve now had more than three decades of blah blah blah. How many more do you need? Because when it comes to facing the climate emergency, the world is still in a state of complete denial. The justice for the most affected people in the most affected areas is being systematically denied.”
In her nearly six-minute speech, Thunberg urged policymakers to stop “basing your ‘pledges’ on the cheating tactics that got us into this mess in the first place” and start to “implement annual binding carbon budgets based on the current best available science.” She also addressed the “desperate” need “for hope.”
“For me, hope is not more empty assurances that everything will be alright, that things are being taken care of, and that we don’t need to worry,” she added. “For me, hope is the feeling that keeps you going, even though all odds may be against you. For me, hope comes from action not just words. And for me, hope is telling it like it is, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable that may be.”
“And again, I’m not telling you what to do. After all, safeguarding the future living conditions and preserving life on Earth as we know it is voluntary. The choice is yours to make,” she concluded. “But I can assure you this: You can’t negotiate with physics. And your children and grandchildren will hold you accountable for the choices that you make. How’s that for a deal?”
Thunberg’s speech comes as Fridays for Future is planning its next international day of climate strikes for March 19 to demand “no more empty promises,” boosting pressure on political and businesses leaders to commit to “immediate, concrete, and ambitious action.” The group has a worldwide map of planned actions and a sign-up form for those wishing to register or create an event.