On Monday in New York City, presidents, prime ministers, ambassadors and international representatives gathered at the historic United Nations building in Manhattan, New York to discuss action on averting the impending climatic catastrophe that the world faces.
Guest speakers for the first half of the day included, President of France, H.E. Emmanuel Macron, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, H.E. Ms. Jacinda Ardern and Germany’s Chancellor, H.E. Mrs. Angela Merke, to name just a few.
However, Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist – who has provided inspiration to not just the younger generations, but to everyone who is concerned about the future of our planet – stole the show with an emotional and impassioned speech.
She began with a response to a question about the message she has for world leaders.
“My message is that we’ll be watching you,” she said.
“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you!
“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!
“For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.
“You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe.
“How dare you pretend that this can be solved with just ‘business as usual’ and some technical solutions? With today’s emissions levels, that remaining CO2 budget will be entirely gone within less than 8 ½ years.
“There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures here today, because these numbers are too uncomfortable. And you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is.
“You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.
“We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.
Thunberg’s full speech, along with the full morning’s speeches can be watched above.
However, President Donald Trump was not in attendance, at least not for very long. He was in fact in the building, to give a speech on religious freedom as part of the UN General Assembly gathering also taking place today.
According to The Hill, Trump took a seat next to Vice President Pence as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was onstage. He walked out of the grand hall, where the Climate Action Summit was being held, after a little over 10 minutes. It was captured on video and posted on Twitter.
The USA is the biggest oil consuming country and accounts for nearly 20% of the world’s total oil consumption per day. Under President Trump, it’s also the only country in the world not to agree to the Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation.
Later in the morning, Thunberg briefly crossed paths with Trump and the moment – thankfully – was captured on video. The facial expression of the Swedish climate activist quickly changes in a second from one of relative normalcy to a steady stare, boiling over with contempt for the US president, who decided to snub the climate summit.
In just one year, Thunberg has risen from taking Friday afternoons off school and protesting outside the Swedish parliament to inspiring millions of young students to march in the largest climate protest ever on Friday September 20.
According to 350.org, more than 4 million people worldwide took part. There were 40,000 people striking in France; 2,600 in Ukraine; 5,000 in South Africa; 10,000 in Turkey; 5,000 in Japan; 100,000 in London; 330,000 in Australia; 250,000 in NYC; and 1.4 million in Germany.