Greta Thunberg declares decisively "We Need Zero Emissions"

Do it now or explain to your children why you gave up: Greta Thunberg speaks at Davos

Greta Thunberg has appeared at the World Economic Forum for the second year in a row, calling on policies makers, business and community leaders and others to take urgent action on climate change and to immediately half all investments and subsidies in fossil fuels.

She joined a group of teenagers for a panel session on the issue, while also giving a speech at an event hosted by The New York Times.

“Let’s be clear. We don’t need a “low carbon economy,” she said. “We don’t need to “lower emissions.” Our emissions have to stop if we are to have a chance to stay below the 1.5-degree target. Until we have the technologies that can put our emissions to minus, we must forget about net zero. We need real zero.” 

During her speech, she referenced the stirring words she shared one year ago when she declared “our house is on fire” and how she wants people to panic about the climate crisis.

“For the record, when we children tell you to panic we’re not telling you to go on like before. We’re not telling you to rely on technologies that don’t even exist today at scale and that science says perhaps never will.

We are not telling you to keep talking about reaching “net zero emissions” or “carbon neutrality” by cheating and fiddling around with numbers. We are not telling you to “offset your emissions” by just paying someone else to plant trees in places like Africa while at the same time forests like the Amazon are being slaughtered at an infinitely higher rate.

Thunberg said the action required includes an immediate half of all investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction, as well as an end to all fossil fuel subsidies and and immedita and complete divestment from fossil fuels.

“We don’t want these things done by 2050, 2030 or even 2021. We want this done now.

“It may seem like we’re asking for a lot. And you will of course say that we are naïve. But this is just the very minimum amount of effort that is needed to start the rapid sustainable transition.

“So either you do this or you’re going to have to explain to your children why you are giving up on the 1.5-degree target. Giving up without even trying. Well I’m here to tell you that, unlike you, my generation will not give up without a fight.

Joining the 17-year old on stage included 16-year old Puerto Rican Salvador Gómez-Colón, 18-year old Zambian Natasha Mwansa and 15-year old Canadian Indigenous water activist Autumn Peltier.

As well as citing a report from 2018 (the International Panel on Climate Change), specifically, the fact that the remaining carbon budget would need to fall below 570 gigatons of carbon dioxide for a 67% chance of limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, Thuberg criticised the U.S’s decision to leave Paris accord.

She was also not interested in taking sides. “From a sustainability perspective, the right, the left as well as the center have all failed. No political ideology or economic structure has been able to tackle the climate and environmental emergency and create a cohesive and sustainable world.”

The panel, which was hosted by American journalist Edward Felsenthal, were asked questions centring on real world solutions to the current climate crisis, how to go from protest to policy change, youth activism and whether or not any of them harboured interests in politics.

“I wonder, what will you tell your children was the reason to fail and leave them facing the climate chaos you knowingly brought upon them?” Thunberg asked.

There was the positive blend of hope and resilience in Thunberg’s words; “All the solutions are obviously not available within today’s societies,” she said. “Nor do we have the time to wait for new technological solutions to become available to start drastically reducing our emissions. So, of course the transition isn’t going to be easy. It will be hard. And unless we start facing this now together, with all cards on the table, we won’t be able to solve this in time.” 

When the moderator Felsenthal asked the panellists what could be done in the more immediate future, Natasha Mwansa said, “Speaking out like we are here. It’s a sign of hope. Being involved in these spaces.”

The World Economic Forum concludes on Friday.

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