Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg took aim at those profiting off of the climate emergency Thursday on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum's annual summit in Davos, Switzerland.
The Fridays for Future leader has previously attracted global attention for delivering impassioned speeches at earlier summits, urging the Davos elite to "act as if you loved your children above all else" and calling on policymakers to stop "basing your 'pledges' on the cheating tactics that got us into this mess in the first place" and start to "implement annual binding carbon budgets."
Early into a panel discussion Thursday with fellow climate activists and an international energy expert, Thunberg said that "we are right now in Davos, where basically the people are who are mostly fueling the destruction of the planet, the people who are at the very core of the climate crisis, the people who are investing in fossil fuels... somehow these are the people that we seem to rely on solving our problems when they have proven time and time again that they are not prioritizing that."
"The changes that we need are not very likely to come from the inside, rather I believe they will come from the bottom up."
"They are prioritizing self greed, corporate greed, and short-term economic profits above people and above planet," she charged. "We seem to be listening to them rather than the people who are actually affected by the climate crisis, the people who are living on the frontlines, and that kind of tells us the situation, how absurd this is."
"The people who we really should be listening to are not here," she said of the yearly meeting that brings people from around the world to the Swiss resort town. "Instead, we are bombarded with messages from people who are basically the people who are causing this crisis."
After the moderator asked Thunberg—who was detained at a protest against coal mining in Germany earlier this week—why she is talking "outside" the summit rather than with high-profile figures "inside" as she has before, she said that "there are already activists doing that, and I think that if there should be activists inside speaking to these people, it should be those on the frontlines and not privileged people like me who are not experiencing the firsthand consequences of the climate crisis."
"I think that right now, the changes that we need are not very likely to come from the inside, rather I believe they will come from the bottom up," the 20-year-old added. "Without massive public pressure from the outside—at least, in my experience—these people are going to go as far as they possibly can."
"As long as they can get away with it, they will continue to invest in fossil fuels, they will continue to throw people under the bus for their own gain," she stressed. "We need to build and create a critical mass of people who demand change, who demand justice."
DAVOS LIVE: Greta Thunberg takes part in a WEF event with IEA's Fatih Birolwww.youtube.com
Thunberg—who twice has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for climate activism that has included global school strikes—said that "we know that the changes we are advocating for are not going to happen overnight, and that is why we have to stay strong during a longer period of time" and grow the movement of people demanding an end to the fossil fuel era.
"The people standing up and raising their voices against all that is happening—that's the hope right now. The hope comes from the people," Thunberg concluded—a sentiment echoed by the other young climate activists on the panel, Vanessa Nakate of Uganda, Luisa Neubauer of Germany, and Helena Gualinga of an Indigenous community in Ecuador. They were joined by Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency, which has also highlighted the need to keep fossil fuels in the ground.
Thunberg, Nakate, Neubauer, and Gualinga are also spearheading a "cease-and-desist" letter demanding that fossil fuel CEOs attending the summit in Davos "immediately stop opening any new oil, gas, or coal extraction sites, and stop blocking the clean energy transition we all so urgently need." As of press time, it had been signed by over 921,000 people.
The activists aren't the only ones taking aim at the fossil fuel industry and their corporate and political allies in Davos this week. As Common Dreamsreported, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres also did so in a speech Wednesday.
"This insanity belongs in science fiction, yet we know the ecosystem meltdown is cold, hard scientific fact," he said of continuing to burn fossil fuels despite the catastrophic consequences. "We must act together to close the emissions gap. To phase out coal and supercharge the renewable revolution. To end the addiction to fossil fuels. And to stop our self-defeating war on nature."
This content originally appeared on Common Dreams and was authored by Jessica Corbett.