This content is not available in your region

Greta Thunberg: 'COP26 is a PR event to fight for the status quo’

Greta Thunberg speaks at COP26.
Greta Thunberg speaks at COP26.   -   Copyright  AFP
By Maeve Campbell

Young Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg took to the stage today for Youth Day at the UN conference, COP26.

She appeared onstage after speakers from countries all around the world - Brazil, Argentina, Pakistan and Uganda, to name a few.

Thousands have waited to see her, especially after a no-show yesterday at another COP26 discussion panel.

“What will it take for the people in power to wake up?” she began.

“Let's be clear, they are already awake. They know exactly what they are doing.”

She used her speech to criticise leaders for not discussing the "root causes" of the climate crisis which, she said, are "colonialism and beyond". She went on to name some of the countries suffering on the frontlines.

Greta attacked the climate conference itself saying, “COP has turned into a PR event where leaders are giving beautiful speeches and fancy commitments and targets.”

“The most affected people in the most affected areas still remain unheard.”

But she didn’t stop there. She offered solutions too.

“We need immediate drastic annual emission cuts, unlike anything the world has ever seen. We will have to fundamentally change our society. That is the uncomfortable result.”

Concluding her speech, she said the media was responsible for not holding the people in power accountable for their inaction.

“This is shameful.”

“Out here, we speak the truth. The people in power are obviously scared of the truth. No matter how hard they try, they cannot escape from it. They cannot ignore the scientific consensus. They cannot ignore us, the people.”

Vanessa Nakate takes to the stage at COP26

Ugandan climate justice activist, Vanessa Nakate, isn’t just fighting for the planet, she’s fighting for marginalised voices to be better represented in the environmental movement.

When Vanessa was cropped out of a photo featuring other prominent activists like Greta Thunberg, at Davos in January 2020, she started to question why she was being erased from climate coverage.

Today, she spoke on the youth stage to an enraptured audience.

“We are in a crisis, we are in a disaster that is happening every day. Floods are ravaging different parts of Kampala, different parts of Uganda and across the African continent,” she said.

“Historically, Africa is responsible for 3 per cent of global emissions. But Africans are suffering. While the African continent is on the frontlines of the climate crisis, they are not on the front pages of the world's newspapers.”

Stirring hope in the audience in front of her, she then painted a picture of what the future should look like.

“But the dry land can be glad again, the farms can blossom again, the animals can be joyous because there is water to drink. The pain and suffering is gone, there is a celebration of the people because the disasters are gone.”

AFP
Vanessa Nakate speaking at COP26.AFP

“We won't have to fight for limited resources because there will be enough for everyone. There is food to eat and water to drink. Children can go to school with no fear of dropping out.

“Once flooded places will dry and bloom again. The power of the people will finally come, the world is green again.”

She concluded, “let us keep the faith for the future,” adding that there are three things that will stay with us from now on.

“Faith, hope and love. The greatest of these things is love. Because when we continue to love the people and the planet, that will be the strength we need to fight for a future that is sustainable, clean and healthy for all of us.”