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Greta tells UN — You've stolen my childhood

September 23, 2019

A UN climate summit drawing 60 world leaders has opened in New York. Activist Greta Thunberg delivered not just words but an impassioned plea for action.

16-year-old Swedish Climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks at the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit
Image: Reuters/C. Allegri

Greta Thunberg tells UN climate summit: 'You have stolen my dreams'

Teenage activist Greta Thunberg delivered a sharp rebuke to world leaders on Monday for their inaction addressing the existential crisis of climate change.

"You come to us young people for hope. How dare you?" a visibly angry Thunberg told the high-level audience gathered for the UN Climate Action Summit in New York.

Read more: Climate emergency: New hope, or just empty words?

"You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words, yet I'm one of the lucky ones. People are suffering, people are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing," thundered the 16-year-old Swedish girl, who has galvanized youth across the world to mobilize against climate change.

"We are at the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth," she said, holding back tears. "If you choose to fail us, we will never forgive you."

More than 60 world leaders are expected to attend the summit called by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to talk about the climate crisis and policy solutions.

Read more: Cities key to tackling climate crisis – global climate group

Merkel hears 'wake-up call'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose government agreed on a climate package last week that was received with mixed reactions, told the gathering that the international community needs to listen to scientists and youth. 

Read more: Is Germany too stingy to fund the fight against climate change?

"We have all heard the wake-up call of youth," she said, referring to climate protests. "Germany has 1% of the world's population and 2% of the world's emissions." 

Merkel described Germany's newly unveiled climate package as the beginning of a "profound transition" that will make the country climate neutral by 2050.

The German leader said climate change is a global problem and that industrial nations have been the primary source of greenhouse gas emissions, while developing nations are bearing the brunt of the crisis. 

Complaint filed against five nations

Meanwhile, Thunberg and 15 other youngsters filed a complaint with the UN Committee on the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The complaint alleges Germany, Argentina, Brazil, France, and Turkey knew about the negative impact on the environment of their carbon emissions and did nothing to prevent it.

"World leaders have failed to keep what they promised. They promised to protect our rights and they have not done that," Thunberg said.

cw, jsi/rc (AFP, dpa)

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