Standing before scores of other youth activists, Greta Thunberg did not mince words while offering her thoughts on the global climate summit in Glasgow, emphatically declaring the gathering of world leaders and scientists to be a “failure,” “PR event,” and “a global north green wash festival.”
The Swedish teen activist and thousands of protestors descended on the city Friday to participate in a youth-led climate strike. The demonstration was organized by Fridays For Future Scotland, the Scottish branch of the international youth movement founded by Thunberg in 2018 — when she began cutting class solo in protest, hoping to spur action from her own politicians in Stockholm.
The gathering of youths — who have been vocal in their demands for urgent action on a global scale — highlighted a generational divide at the COP26 United Nations climate summit. Those participating in the conference vowed progress and projected optimism on the climate initiatives being discussed, while the demonstrators outside expressed frustration, believing the measures were not going far enough to address the planet’s warming.
“It is not a secret that COP26 is a failure,” said Thunberg, who headlined the event. “It should be obvious that we cannot solve the crisis with the same methods that got us into it in the first place.”
Thunberg accused leaders of knowing “exactly what they are doing” and the “priceless values they are sacrificing to maintain business as usual.”
“They are actively creating loopholes and shaping frameworks to benefit themselves and to continue profiting from this destructive system,” the 18-year-old said. “This is an active choice by the leaders to continue to let the exploitation of people and nature, and the destruction of present and future living conditions to take place.”
She criticized the conference as a “PR event where leaders are giving beautiful speeches and announcing fancy commitments and targets.” Thunberg found a receptive audience, as ralliers cheered and hollered in agreement with her pointed remarks.
The “voices of future generations are drowning in their greenwash and empty words and promises,” Thunberg added.
Those who have convened to address climate change at the summit have thus far made a number of pledges — from promising to halt harmful emissions to ending deforestation. Some of the biggest financial institutions in the world have also vowed to mobilize trillions to assist with efforts to move toward cleaner energy. However, for activists like Thunberg, those moves aren’t enough to prevent impending catastrophe.
“We need immediate, drastic annual emission cuts unlike anything the world has ever seen,” Thunberg said. “As we don’t have the technological solutions that alone will do anything even close to that, that means we will have to fundamentally change our society.”
“They can continue to ignore the consequences of their inaction,” she said. “But history will judge them poorly. And we will not accept it.”