In the wake of the latest failure by the G7 nations to take meaningful steps to combat the climate emergency and record-breaking heatwaves on multiple continents, Swedish campaigner Greta Thunberg on Friday accused world leaders of hypocrisy for persecuting climate activists while "pretending" to take the threat seriously.
"Young people all over this planet are no longer falling for your lies."
—Greta Thunberg to world leaders
Addressing the Austrian World Summit virtually, the 18-year-old Thunberg noted that "more and more people around the world have woken up to the climate and ecological crisis, putting more and more pressure on you, the people in power."
"Eventually the public pressure was too much," said the Fridays for Future founder. "You have the world's eyes on you, so you started to act. Not acting as in taking climate action, but acting as in role-playing. Playing politics, playing with words, and playing with our future. Pretending to take responsibility; acting as saviors as you try to convince us that things are being taken seriously."
"Meanwhile the gap between your rhetoric and reality keeps growing wider and wider," Thunberg continued. "And since the level of awareness is so low you almost get away with it."
"But let's be clear," she stressed, "what you are doing is not about climate action or responding to an emergency. It never was. This is communications tactics dressed as politics."
Thunberg accused leaders of high-income nations of "pretending to change and listen to young people," and in a thinly veiled criticism of U.S. President Joe Biden, by "pretending to take science seriously by saying 'science is back' while holding climate summits without even inviting one single climate scientist as speaker."
She also accused leaders of "pretending to wage war against fossil fuels, while opening up brand-new coal mines, oil fields, and pipelines."
"You don't only continue business as usual," said Thunberg, "in many cases you're even speeding up and scaling up the process, pretending to have the most ambitious climate policies while granting new oil licenses [and] exploring future oil fields."
In another swipe at Biden, Thunberg decried "pretending to 'build back better' after the pandemic even though astronomical sums of money have already been locked in, and not in green projects."
"And when your empty words are not enough, when the protests grow too loud, you respond by making the protests illegal."
"The G7, as an example, is spending billions more on fossil fuels and fossil fuel infrastructure than on clean energy," she noted.
"And when your empty words are not enough, when the protests grow too loud, you respond by making the protests illegal," Thunberg charged. Her remarks came amid a wave of arrests of climate activists, including members of the youth-led Sunrise Movement in Washington, D.C. and Indigenous-led water protectors protesting the Line 3 tar sands pipeline in Minnesota and elsewhere in recent days and weeks.
"But as your acts continue, more and more of us are seeing through... your role-playing," Thunberg said. "The gap between your actions and words is becoming more impossible to ignore, while more and more extreme weather events are raging all around us. And as a result, young people all over this planet are no longer falling for your lies."
"You say we need to move slowly to bring the public along," Thunberg continued. "However, how do you honestly expect to bring the people along if you don't treat this crisis like a crisis? The climate crisis is today at best being treated only as a business opportunity to create new green jobs, new green businesses and technologies."
"Perhaps playing a role helps you sleep at night," Thunberg speculated. "But while you are busy working the stage, you seem to forget that the climate crisis is not something distant in the future. It is already taking so much from the most affected people in the most affected areas."
"This might just be a game to you, a game to win votes, popularity, points on the stock market, or your next highly paid position in a company or a lobbying firm," she said. "You can and will continue to pretend, but nature and physics will not fall for it."