NEW YORK - Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, delivered a powerful speech to the United Nations General Assembly Monday, warning world leaders to take climate change seriously or the population will suffer.
“My message is that we’ll be watching you,” she said. “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!”
Thunberg started the climate strike movement with a lone protest in front of her country’s parliament about a year and a half ago.
“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. Yet, I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is the money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you,” she continued.
Her speech was part of the UN’s first of its kind Youth Climate Summit. It came the day after hundreds of thousands of young people gathered for a climate strike across six continents.
“For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight,” Thunberg said. “You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency, but no matter how sad and angry I am I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act – then you would be evil, and that I refuse to believe.”
In Thunberg’s short lifetime, the Earth has already warmed 0.6 degrees Fahrenheit. She, along with the other young activists, demanded money for a fund to help poorer nations adapt to the warming world and provide greener energy.
They also insisted that the world should wean itself off from coal, oil and gas that contribute greatly to the climate crisis.
“There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures here today because these numbers are too uncomfortable. And you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is,” Thunberg said. “You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you.”
After listening to Thunberg and other young climate activists, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres credited them with transforming him from a pessimist to an optimist in the fight against global warming.
He said he sees a “change in momentum” heading into Monday’s Climate Action Summit taking place ahead of the UN General Assembly gathering of world leaders on Tuesday.
The group of activists brainstormed about what they could do to change the trajectory of an ever-warming planet and how they can help the world adapt to the climate’s rapid changes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.