Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg called on world leaders Tuesday to recognize the seriousness of global warming and admit that not enough is being done to curb it.
Speaking at the R20 Austrian World Summit in Austria’s capital, Vienna, Greta suggested it was wrong to portray climate change as “primarily an opportunity to create new green jobs, new businesses, green economic growth,” as some political and business leaders have done.
“This is above all an emergency and not just any emergency. This is the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced,” she said. “This is not something you can like on Facebook.”
The 16-year-old’s activism, which started with her protesting alone in front of the Swedish parliament last summer, has inspired student protests around the world. Green parties in Europe have credited Greta with helping bring the issue of climate change into the limelight because it has been boosting their results in last week’s European Parliament elections.
“Politicians one second say climate change is very important, it is the most important topic and we are going to do everything we can to stop it,” she said. “And the next second, they want to expand airports, build new coal power plants and motorways. And then they fly off in a private jet to attend a meeting on the other side of the world.”
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, who has invited world leaders to a climate summit in New York in September, said countries aren’t doing enough to meet the Paris climate agreement’s goal of keeping global warming well below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century compared with the mid-1800s.
Guterres called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies — or government actions to help fossil fuel companies. He said taxpayers’ money shouldn’t be used to harm the planet.
“Many people still think that to give fossil fuel subsidies is a way to improve living conditions of people,” he said. “Nothing [could be] more wrong. What we are doing is to use taxpayers’ money, which means our money, to boost hurricanes, to spread drought, to melt glaciers, to bleach corals . . . to destroy the world.”
“I believe that as taxpayers we would prefer to see our money back than to see our money used to destroy the world,” Guterres said.