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Climate activists Greta Thunberg and Vanessa Nakate scold global leaders for lack of action

The young climate activists said they are tired of empty promises.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg delivers a speech Tuesday at the Youth4Climate event in Milan, Italy. Thunberg said world leaders say they are listening to young activists, but they are not. “Just look at the numbers. Emissions are still rising. The science doesn’t lie,” she said. (Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images)

Activists Vanessa Nakate and Greta Thunberg criticized global leaders Tuesday for failing to meet funding pledges to help people cope with climate change and for delivering too much “blah blah blah’’ as climate change wreaks havoc around the world.

They even cast doubt on the intentions behind a youth climate gathering where they were speaking in Milan, Italy.

Four-hundred climate activists from 180 countries were invited to Italy’s financial capital for a three-day Youth4Climate summit that will send its recommendations to a major United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, that begins October 31. But participants are demanding more accountability from leaders and a bigger official role for young people.

“They invite cherry-picked young people to pretend they are listening to us,’’ Thunberg said. “But they are not. They are clearly not listening to us. Just look at the numbers. Emissions are still rising. The science doesn’t lie.

“Leaders like to say, ‘We can do it.’ They obviously don’t mean it. But we do,” the Swedish activist said.

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Nakate, a 24-year-old activist from Uganda, said pledges of $117 billion a year to help countries particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate change has not materialized, even as wildfires in California and Greece and floods in Germany and Belgium show that “loss and damage is now possible everywhere.

“In fact, funds were promised by 2020, and we are still waiting,’’ she said. “No more empty conferences. It’s time to show us the money. It’s time, it’s time, it’s time. And don’t forget to listen to the most affected people and areas.”

Nakate dramatically underlined how climate change is affecting the African continent, “which is ironic given that Africa is the lowest emitter of CO2 [carbon dioxide] emissions of any continent except Antarctica.”

Just last week, she said she saw police taking away a body that had been washed away by violent storms in the Ugandan capital of Kampala, while others searched for more victims. Her mother told her that one man who disappeared in the water had been trying to save the goods he was selling from being washed away.

Nakata collapsed in tears after her emotional speech, getting comfort from Thunberg, who followed her to the lectern that was too tall for her small stature.

Thunberg, who brought together the global protest movement Fridays for Future, said it wasn’t too late to reverse climate trends. But she has heard enough from leaders, whom she said have been talking for 30 years while half of all carbon emissions have occurred since 1990, one-third since 2005.

“This is all we hear from our so-called leaders: words. Words that sound great but so far have led to no action,” she said. “Our hopes and dreams drown in their empty words and promises. Of course we need constructive dialogue, but they have now had 30 years of blah, blah, blah. And where has this led us?”

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