Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg launched a new broadside Thursday against “role-playing” by political and economic leaders over the climate crisis, accusing them of using it as a business opportunity.
Appearing via video-link at the Austrian World Summit on climate policy hosted by former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, she described the reaction of those in power to the groundswell of climate activism.
“Eventually the public pressure was too much. So you started to act,” Thunberg said.
“But acting as in role-playing. Playing politics, playing with words, playing with our future.”
Thunberg, 18, derided wealthy nations’ climate commitments as “vastly insufficient” in the face of “more and more extreme weather events… raging all around us”.
This week a heat wave in western Canada and the north-western United States smashed temperature records and has been linked to dozens of excess deaths.
Thunberg said net zero emissions targets announced by major economies “could be a great start, if they weren’t full of gaps and loopholes” such as “leaving out emissions from imported goods, international aviation and shipping”.
In addition they rely on “baseline manipulation” and the use of unproven technology, according to the activist, who rose to prominence by mounting a series of school strikes for the climate which inspired a global movement.
“The climate crisis is today — at best — being treated only as a business opportunity to create green new jobs, new green businesses and technologies,” she said.
The summit, launched five years ago by Schwarzenegger, aims to highlight “concrete solutions and measures from global decision-makers” in response to the challenge of climate change.
In his opening message,Schwarzenegger stressed the need for “encouragement, not just threat and despair”.
Making a tongue-in-cheek reference to his most famous role, he added: “We can terminate pollution, let’s get our message together and let’s work together.”
Among those participating in the event are Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans — who is leading the Commission’s work on its European Green Deal — and high-ranking representatives from multinational giants Ford and Apple.
Thunberg’s address was cut short for technical reasons.