On the 23rd of September 2019, Greta Thunberg addressed the world’s leaders with an emotional speech about the impact of climate change. The speech was held at the United Nations Climate Change Summit in New York, expected to create fresh efforts towards combating climate change. Within her speech, Thunberg accosted world leaders for their betrayal to the younger generations.
Just days after the climate change protests that were held around the world, Thunberg stood before the world’s leaders in disappointment. A mere year has passed since Greta Thunberg stood for climate change on her own, now she has inspired millions to stand, march and protest the actions of governments towards climate change.
Thunberg’s speech focused upon how the generations before had let the youth down and how the responsibility has shifted: “You look to us for hope. How dare you!”. Their actions have been detrimental to the lives of the youth and for the generations to come. Thunberg’s childhood and education has been ‘’replaced’’, making her become a climate change activist and the face of a movement, an almost martyr-like figure. “This is all wrong, I should be at school on the other side of the ocean.”
The anger is rightfully just, as those in power have dismissed the efforts to stop climate change. The president of the USA, Donald Trump, stayed for a mere fifteen minutes at the event before leaving. During the summit, China refused to make any changes to help stop climate change. Merkel stated that there would be efforts to stop coal mining in Germany, but it wouldn’t be eradicated until 2038. Many of the leading countries did not participate in the summit, such as the USA, Canada and Australia, which took a lot of focus away from the main purpose of the summit. The major polluters brushed off concerns whilst developing countries were the ones who put forward the most measures.
Her speech was rife with scientific statistics and information as she attempted to bring some of the audience to reality of the climate crisis. She stated that there is a 50% chance that we will not meet the quota to stop the advancement of climate change before the irreversible damage begins. However, that doesn’t consider tipping points, feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution or aspects of equity.
“We’ll be watching you.” threatened Thunberg as she was asked what her message was to the world’s leaders. Greta Thunberg sends the message on the behalf of our children, desperate to make a change to the world and return to their childhoods that have been stolen from them. She makes it clear that there will be no forgiveness for the blunder of those in power, as they turned their backs and focused upon “money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth”. Thunberg expresses her disappointment of their greed throughout the speech, as she makes it clear that she does not expect a lot to be achieved from the summit as many are either waiting for COP26 or in denial.
Thunberg is a young girl who is able to remain strong and stony faced in front of those who dictate how change can happen. Through her activism she has faced criticism beyond what a 16-year-old should have to cope with. This criticism is often from those in positions of power. From being mocked by Donald Trump over twitter, in reference to her speech, with the President labelling her as ‘a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future’, to misogynistic, infantilising and derogatory remarks from across social media.
Her speech was entrenched in emotion as she makes it clear how disappointed the younger generation feels towards the older generations. Alongside fourteen other children, Thunberg signed a formal complaint under the UN convention on the rights of the child on the 23 September. Her speech brings to light how the younger generations are being forced to prematurely take on responsibility, when those who showed the evidence should have been listened to from the beginning.
Greta Thunberg is one of millions of children impacted by climate change. “We will never forgive you” from the betrayal of those who are supposed to improve our world, not sit and watch it burn.
Image: European Parliament via Wikimedia