Teen activist and Meat Loaf adversary Greta Thunberg arrived in Glasgow for the United Nations Climate Change Conference on Monday but did not join world leaders at the summit. According to the New York Times, Thunberg, 18, instead took part in the protest outside, explaining in her speech that she is over politicians who have proved to be all talk and no action on the climate crisis.
“Change is not going to come from inside there,” she told the crowd. “That is not leadership; this is leadership.”
Thunberg accused the “people in power” attending COP26 of “pretending to take our future seriously” by making empty promises without taking drastic action to curb atmospheric warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius, as agreed upon in Paris six years ago. The window to do so has very nearly closed, as a United Nations report made clear in August, but as of December 2020, not a single country was on track to meet that goal. At this point, the U.N.’s secretary-general António Guterres warned, the planet faces “a code red for humanity.”
Yet even wealthy countries like the U.S. lag behind. Although President Joe Biden — who took immediate steps to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord in January, reversing Donald Trump’s withdrawal — has reportedly hammered out a historic $555 billion clean-energy budget, his tentative achievement comes after a prolonged back-and-forth with certain centrist senators who are negotiating in favor of their coal-industry connections. And then neither China (responsible for over one-quarter of global emissions) nor Russia even showed up for the conference. You can see how Thunberg would lose faith in politicians. “We are catastrophically far from the crucial goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius,” she said at the protest, “and yet governments everywhere are still accelerating the crisis, spending billions on fossil fuels.”
“We say no more blah, blah, blah,” she continued. “No more exploitation of people and nature and the planet.”
According to the Times, Thunberg was not invited to speak at the summit, though her presence outside helped get more than a million signatures on a petition she launched with fellow activist youths Vanessa Nakate, Dominika Lasota, and Mitzi Tan. Accusing world leaders of “betrayal,” the petition asks for an end to fossil-fuel investments, transparency around national emissions, $100 billion in support for vulnerable countries, “climate policies that protect workers,” and maintenance of the 1.5-degree target. Thunberg recently suggested to the BBC that COP26 had sidelined speakers from her age bracket because the organizers “might be scared that if they invite too many ‘radical’ young people, then that might make them look bad.”