Greta Thunberg: “Every change in history has come through the people”

As climate talks have all but come to a halt at the UN climate summit, in Madrid, youth activists are putting pressure on country delegations to raise ambition to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement — with Greta Thunberg as their main spokesperson.

Image credits: UNFCCC.

“In just three weeks we’ll enter in a new decade which will define our future. Now we are all desperately looking for a signal of hope. And I can tell you that there’s hope, I’ve seen it. But it doesn’t come from governments or corporations, it comes from the people,” Thunberg said.

The Swedish climate activist addressed country delegations at the plenary of the COP25 climate summit. She arrived in Madrid after two weeks of travel from the US in a catamaran, choosing this travel option to reduce emissions associated with flying (which are about 10 times higher than sailing). Since then, she has participated in different events at COP25 and putting pressure on countries.

As usual in her speeches, Thunberg did not bring her own ideas to the table, instead choosing to quote several scientific reports and studies to back her call to action. She said that in order to have a 67% chance to avoid global warming to surpass 1.5 degrees Celsius only 420 gigatons of carbon dioxide can be released. At the current pace, that will happen in just eight years, she said.

“Our leaders are not behaving like we were in an emergency,” she said. “In an emergency, you change the way you act. If there’s a kid in the middle of the road and cars come at full speed, you don’t look at somewhere else just because it’s awkward. You immediately run and rescue him”.

Following her speech, dozens of activists from her movement Fridays for Future took the stage at the COP25 plenary for several minutes as a sign of protest. Thunberg is now heading back to Sweden. She will travel on train, electric bus and electric car along with her father, according to her press manager.

Youth climate activists are the main protagonists in the halls of COP25 and in the streets of Madrid. Every day they carry out different actions to highlight their discontent with the pace of the climate negotiations. About half a million people marched on a climate protest last Friday.

Talks in Madrid are stalling as countries are having trouble to agree on the use of carbon markets as part of the Paris Agreement, signed in 2015 to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. A decision on the issue could be pushed ahead to next year’s COP26 in the UK.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said there’s still time to “make the COP25 very relevant” but in order to do that, an agreement has to be made on carbon markets as well as getting a more significant commitment from developed countries on emissions reductions.

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