“Build Back Better. Blah, blah, blah. Green economy. Blah, blah, blah. Net-zero by 2050. Blah, blah, blah.”
At the Youth4Climate Summit in Milan, Swedish youth climate activist Greta Thunberg mocks and criticizes world leaders for what she explains to be empty climate promises. Thunberg identifies international “solutions” for climate change such as the Build Back Better Plan and criticizes world leaders, such as Boris Johnson, for their lack of necessary action to uphold their commitments. Thus, Thunberg, along with Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate, demands that leaders be held accountable in the fight against climate change.
Young climate activists like Thunberg and Nakate have sparked protests for climate change around the world. Fridays for Future, organized by Greta Thunberg, has evolved into a global movement advocating for the environment.
Thunberg delivers a powerful message in her speech. The words of world leaders, without action, are just words, Greta conveys, and they do not change the fact that CO2 emissions are rising at a dangerous rate.
“This is all we hear from our so-called leaders. Words. Words that sound great, but so far, have led to no action.
… Of course, we need constructive dialogue. But they’ve now had 30 years of blah, blah, blah and where has that led us?
… All this while the media is reporting on what the leaders say they’re going to do instead of what they are actually doing. And they’re not holding leaders accountable for their action, or, rather, inaction.”
At a United Nations talks in Milan, Italy’s climate minister Roberto Cingolani acknowledges that there is truth in Thunberg’s speech, “She was raising a serious problem: we weren’t credible in the past, we didn’t do enough.”
Vanessa Nakate also criticizes how the pledges of financial aid to countries vulnerable to climate change have yet to be fulfilled. She points to countries in Africa, which, despite being the least responsible for CO2 emissions, are facing incredibly severe effects of climate change. Some effects include natural disasters, rising temperatures, disease, and food insecurity. Like Thunberg, Nakate demand that leaders keep to their promises, “No more empty conferences. It’s time to show us the money. It’s time, it’s time, it’s time.” Climate minister Roberto Cingolani also emphasized the importance of providing financial aid to developing and vulnerable countries as well as phasing out their use of coal.
The Youth4Climate summit in Milan will be followed by the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow on October 31. The summit is significant because it will provide an opportunity for over 190 nations to firmly commit to reaching zero net emissions before it is too late. Roberto Cingolani explains that some “good steps” are being taken that can make the summit successful. For example, Chinese President Xi Jinping recently said that China will cease to fund overseas coal-fired plants, and Turkey has committed to the protocols outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement.
We can only hope that commitments made at Glasglow won’t be empty ones; however, looking at the failures of countries to uphold past climate commitments, that might be the case.