‘How dare you?’ Greta Thunberg makes impassioned plea for climate action at UN

The eyes of future generations are on world leaders to take urgent action on climate change, teenage activist Greta Thunberg has told the UN.

In an impassioned speech at the UN climate action summit, the 16-year-old, who has inspired a global climate strike movement, told delegates they would never be forgiven if they failed to tackle rising temperatures.

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Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg attends a news conference at the SMILE meeting (Summer Meeting In Lausanne Europe), with other young climate strike activists from 37 European countries of the FridaysforFuture movement in Lausanne, Switzerland, August 5, 2019. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
16-year-old Swedish Climate activist Greta Thunberg attends the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 23, 2019. REUTERS/Yana Paskova
16-year-old Swedish Climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks at the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 23, 2019.
Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg appears at the Youth Climate Summit at United Nations HQ in the Manhattan borough of New York, New York, U.S., September 21, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres shakes hands with Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg at the Youth Climate Summit at United Nations Headquarters in the Manhattan borough of New York, New York, U.S., September 21, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Sixteen year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks to a large crowd of demonstrators at the Global Climate Strike in lower Manhattan in New York, U.S., September 20, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Sixteen year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks to a large crowd of demonstrators at the Global Climate Strike in lower Manhattan in New York, U.S., September 20, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Sixteen year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg departs after attending a demonstration at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, U.S., September 18, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Swedish 16-year-old youth climate activist Greta Thunberg sits on the side amongst other youth climate activists at a news conference about the Green New Deal hosted by U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) on the Northeast lawn in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., September 17, 2019. REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Swedish activist Greta Thunberg participates in a youth climate change protest in front of the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S.,September 6, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Swedish 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg completes her trans-Atlantic crossing in order to attend a United Nations summit on climate change in New York, U.S., August 28, 2019. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
Swedish 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg sails on the Malizia II racing yacht in New York Harbor as she nears the completion of her trans-Atlantic crossing in order to attend a United Nations summit on climate change in New York, U.S., August 28, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Swedish 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg sails on the Malizia II racing yacht in New York Harbor as she nears the completion of her trans-Atlantic crossing in order to attend a United Nations summit on climate change in New York, U.S., August 28, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Segar TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg holding signage reading "School strike for climate" sits aboard Team Malizia yacht that will transport Thunberg across the Atlantic for the UN Climate Action Conference in this recent undated photo released August 16, 2019. Team Malizia/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT.
Greta Thunberg, Swedish "Fridays for Future" climate activist, stands next to activists and a masked inhabitant of an illegal tree house in the Hambach Forest that is supposed to be chopped away for the nearby open-cast brown coal minr of German utility RWE, west of Cologne, Germany, August 10, 2019. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay
Greta Thunberg, Swedish "Fridays for Future" climate activist, stands next to climbing equipment that hangs from an illegal tree house in the Hambach Forest that is supposed to be chopped away for the nearby open-cast brown coal mine of German utility RWE, west of Cologne, Germany, August 10, 2019. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay
Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, Adelaide Charlier and Alicia Arquetoux, French activists from the Youth for Climate movement, attend the questions to the government session at the National Assembly in Paris, France, July 23, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg leaves after a debate with French parliament members at the National Assembly in Paris, France, July 23, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg attends "Fridays for Future" protest, claiming for urgent measures to combat climate change, in Berlin, Germany, July 19, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg attends "Fridays for Future" protest, claiming for urgent measures to combat climate change, in Berlin, Germany, July 19, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
Revellers walk past a Greta Thunberg mural at Glastonbury Festival at Worthy farm in Somerset, Britain June 26, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Greta Thunberg attends a demonstration calling for action on climate change, during the "Fridays for Future" school strike in Vienna, Austria May 31, 2019. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger reacts next to Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen during the R20 Austrian World Summit in Vienna, Austria, May 28, 2019. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner
Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg looks on next to the former leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party Ed Miliband at the House of Commons as guest of Caroline Lucas, in London, Britain April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg joins Italian students to demand action on climate change, in Piazza del Popolo, Rome, Italy April 19, 2019. REUTERS/Yara Nardi
Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg speaks to the media, as she joins Italian students to demand action on climate change, in Piazza del Popolo, Rome, Italy April 19, 2019. REUTERS/Yara Nardi
"Fridays for Future" activist Greta Thunberg leaves after speaking at the Senate in Rome, Italy April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
Climate activist Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg meets Pope Francis during the weekly audience at Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, April 17, 2019. Vatican Media/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg cries at the end of her a speech to the environment committee of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, April 16, 2019. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler
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The teenager, who travelled to the US by yacht to avoid flying, said she should not be up on stage, but should be in school on the other side of the ocean.

She said: "You come to us young people for hope – how dare you? You have stolen my dreams, my childhood with your empty words.

"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 the fairy tale of endless economic growth. How dare you?

"How dare you continue to look away, and come here saying that you are doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight."

She told the gathered politicians she did not believe they understood the situation, because if they did and continued to fail to act, they would be "evil" and she refused to believe that.

The teenager set out the scale of the challenge in cutting emissions to keep temperature rises to 1.5C, beyond which scientists have warned the impacts of climate change become much more severe – warning that at current rates, the remaining budget for emissions would be used up in eight-and-a-half years.

And she warned that the situation could not be solved by "business as usual" and some technological solutions.

"The eyes of all future generations are on you. If you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you."

She added: "Right now, right here is where we draw the line. The world is waking up, change is coming, whether you like it or not."

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres, who convened the summit to urge increased action on tackling emissions, welcomed the young people who have been protesting over climate change.

"My generation has failed in its responsibility to protect our planet. That must change. The climate crisis is caused by us, and the solutions must come from us."

He said the world had the tools, the technology and the imperative, provided by "undeniable and irrefutable" science, and said tackling emissions would deliver other benefits in areas such as health, food security and equality.

Mr Guterres said: "There's a cost to everything but the biggest cost of all is doing nothing, the biggest cost is subsidising a dying fossil fuel industry, building more and more coal plants, and denying what is plain as day: we are in a big climate hole and to get out, we must first stop digging."

While he said the climate emergency was a race the world was losing, it is a race that could be won, and urged leaders to "lace up our running shoes and win the climate race for us all".

The UN estimates there needs to be between a three-fold and five-fold increase in efforts to cut greenhouse gases, to prevent global temperatures rising more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

The climate action summit in New York aims to galvanise efforts by countries and businesses to close the gap between what is needed to curb global warming and current policies, which put the world on track to warm by more than 3C.

More than 60 world leaders are set to speak, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, with heads of nations such as Finland and Germany promising to ban coal within a decade.

US President Donald Trump dropped by, listened to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's detailed pledges, including going coal-free, and then left without saying anything.

Other announcements coming forward include an alliance of some of the world's largest pension funds and investors, responsible for directing more than 2.4 trillion US dollars, who have committed to making their investment portfolios carbon neutral by 2050.

Mr Johnson is announcing that scientists will be able to use up to £1 billion of the aid budget inventing new technology to tackle the climate crisis in developing countries, alongside funding to protect wildlife.

A mother cries while she holds her baby during a protest organised by Mothers Rise Up at Downing Street
A mother cries while she holds her baby during a protest organised by Mothers Rise Up at Downing Street (Aaron Chown/PA)

As Mr Johnson attends the summit in New York, a group of mothers staged a pushchair protest and "climate rhyme time" action outside Downing Street and the London headquarters of Shell and BP calling for them to keep polluting fossil fuels in the ground.

Maya Mailer, from Mothers Rise Up, the group of UK mothers behind the action, said: "We are terrified mothers and we are appealing to Boris Johnson, and the bosses of Shell and BP, to start treating the climate crisis like the emergency it is: pull the plug on fossil fuels and massively ramp up investment in clean renewable energy."

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