Economic success has unthinkable price tags, 16-year-old climate activist tells Davos

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, 16, speaks at a press conference on the last day of the World Economic Forum) in Davos on 25 January 2019. [EPA-EFE/LAURENT GILLIERON]

As the World Economic Forum prepared to wind down on Friday (25 January), a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist took the stage to warn world leaders that their successes come at “unthinkable price tags” for the rest of the global community. 

“In Davos, people like to tell about success stories but their financial success has come with an unthinkable price tag and on climate change, we have to acknowledge that we have failed,” Greta Thunberg told a press conference in Davos, Switzerland.

“Adults keep saying we own to the young people to give them hope but I don’t want your hope, I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic, I want you to feel the fear I feel every day and then I want you to act as if our house is on fire because it is,” she said.

Thunberg was invited to the World Economic Forum by the Arctic Basecamp, a group of Arctic experts and scientists who set up a basecamp in Davos in a bid to raise awareness among the global economic elite of the urgency of the climate crisis.

Since she started her school strikes for climate action in Stockholm in August, Thunberg has become a prominent voice calling for stronger climate action, culminating with a speech she delivered at the UN climate conference (COP24) in Poland last December. There, she said world leaders were “behaving like children” and young people should take responsibility instead.

“Here is Davos, just like everywhere else, everyone is talking about money, it seems money and growth are our only main concerns,” she said.

But our house is on fire, she continued.

“All political movements in their present form have (failed) and the media have failed to create public awareness but homo sapiens has not yet failed,” Thunberg also said.

“We are facing a disaster of unspoken sufferings for an enormous amount of people and now is not the time for speaking politely or focusing on what we can or cannot say now is the time to speak clearly,” she said and added:

“Yes, we are failing but there is still time to turn everything around, we can still fix this.” 

The main solution to resolve the climate crisis “is so simple that even a child can understand it”, she said in reference to cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

But she warned that there is no political will to change the way we live and we do business.

“What do we do when there is no political will? What do we do when the politics needed is nowhere in sight?” she asked.

For her part, she is organising school strikes and calling on other young people to rally behind the climate cause.

Her call has already found fertile soil in Europe with young people marching across Europe and urging world leaders to take action against global warming.

In Berlin, thousands took to the streets chanting “we are here, we are loud because you are stealing our future”.

In Brussels on Thursday (24 January), about 35 000 young people rallied in the streets. Police said the 35,000-strong gathering was the biggest student protest turnout in the Belgian capital in recent times.

Another climate march is scheduled in Brussels on Sunday (27 January).

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