Greta Thunberg Accuses World Leaders of ‘Pure Madness’ for Climate Failures at COP26

“We don’t need any more distant, non-binding pledges. We don’t need any more empty promises… Yet that is all that we are getting and no, that is not radical to say.”

By Julia Conley

Rejecting the label of “radical” that has been assigned to climate action advocates for decades, Fridays for Future leader Greta Thunberg addressed thousands of campaigners in the center of Glasgow on Friday as politicians at the United Nations’ 26th Conference of the Parties unveiled plans to combat the climate emergency—plans, Thunberg and others at the rally said, don’t go nearly far enough in limiting the heating of the planet to 1.5°C.

Contrary to what many in power claim, Thunberg said, policymakers’ apparent belief that “our world can survive a 2.7° or 3° hotter world is not only extremely radical—it’s pure madness.”

Thunberg’s speech drew loud applause from thousands of young people who traveled to Glasgow from all over the world to march as the conference, known as COP26, marked “Youth and Public Empowerment Day.”

Campaigners have praised some of the efforts made by policymakers at COP26, including a vow to end overseas fossil fuel projects and the Biden administration’s decision to return the U.S. to the “High Ambition Coalition.”

But observers including Thunberg have also been wary of wealthy nations’ pledges, as campaigners wait to see whether the Global North will deliver on a decade-old pledge to deliver $100 billion to developing countries to help them adapt to and mitigate the climate crisis, as well as new promises to end coal consumption by a number of countries—but not the U.S., China, or Australia.

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Watch the speech:

“The question we must now ask ourselves is, what is it that we are fighting for?” said Thunberg. “Are we fighting to save ourselves and our living planet or are we fighting to maintain business as usual? Our leaders say we can have both, but the harsh truth is that is not possible.”

She continued:

“The people in power can continue to live in their bubble filled with fantasies, like eternal growth on a finite planet and technological solutions that will suddenly appear out of nowhere and will suddenly erase all of these crises, just like that. All this while the world is literally burning, on fire, and the people on the front lines are still bearing the brunt of the climate crisis. They can continue to ignore the consequences of their inaction, but history will judge them poorly and we will not accept it.

We don’t need any more distant, non-binding pledges. We don’t need any more empty promises… Yet that is all that we are getting and no, that is not radical to say. They have had 26 COPs, they have had decades of blah, blah, blah, and where has that led us?”

Some in the crowd replied, “Nowhere!” as the campaigners applauded.

Thunberg’s speech came the day before even larger demonstrations are expected in Glasgow, as COP26 enters its second week.

In the coming days, world leaders are expected to discuss land use, climate action for local governments, and climate finance.

Thunberg demanded the leaders end the Global North’s “shameful” neglect of poor nations and deliver long-promised climate financing and called on campaigners to persist in pressuring policymakers as the summit continues.

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“Out here we speak the truth,” Thunberg said. “The people in power are scared of the truth… but they cannot ignore the scientific consensus and above all, they cannot ignore, us, the people—including their own children. They cannot ignore our screams as we reclaim our power.”

“Our leaders are not leading,” she added. “This is what leadership looks like.”

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