VIENNA – Climate activist Greta Thunberg joined world leaders and celebrities for a summit in Austria on Tuesday and blamed politicians for failing to react to the environmental emergency the world faces.
Thunberg was at the third Austrian World Summit – an event organized by former California governor and movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger that lobbies to step up climate initiatives – to launch the event attended by politicians, diplomats, businesspeople and journalists.
“We need to change the way we speak about the climate crisis and we need to call it what it is: an emergency,” Thunberg told the audience sternly.
“But we children are not leaders, nor are the scientists, unfortunately, but many of you here today are,” she continued.
“Presidents, celebrities, politicians, CEO’s and journalists, people listen to you, they are influenced by you and therefore you have an enormous responsibility.”
“And let’s be honest, this a responsibility that you have failed to take,” the teen Swedish activist added.
Thunberg labeled the climate emergency as the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced adding that while politicians and lawmakers remained inactive populations would not be able to see it for what it really was.
“For too long the people in power have gotten away with basically not doing anything to stop the climate and ecological breakdown,” Thunberg continued.
“They have gotten away with stealing our future and selling it for profit.”
“But we young people are waking up and we promise we will not let you get away with it, anymore,” she said in reference to the global movement she started that has seen tens of thousands of students take to the streets for weekly climate strikes.
Schwarzenegger criticized scaremongerers who spread fear by claiming that doing away with fossil fuels would destroy the economy.
He reminded the audience that the south-western United States state of California, which has strict environmental policies, was the fifth largest economy on the planet.
“You can protect both, you can protect the environment and the economy at the same time,” he said.
“So if any of those politicians tells you otherwise, they are full of crap,” the Austrian added.
Secretary-General of the UN Antonio Guterres, who was also in attendance, made a call for a post-carbon economy and society.
“We need a climate-smart development pathway that can provide inclusive prosperity for all on a healthy planet,” the Portuguese diplomat said.
Thunberg first launched her campaign on social media with Fridays for Future.
She held her first “School Strike for Climate” in front of the Swedish Parliament in August last year and since then the movement has snowballed.
Students around the world participate in weekly strikes in dozens of countries.