Greta Thunberg tells Davos public pressure is key to combatting climate change

The Swedish climate activist said she is not in the position to tell “over-exploited countries” what to do

Climate activists Greta Thunberg of Sweden, Vanessa Nakate of Uganda, Helena Gualinga of Ecuador, Luise Neubauer of Germany, and Fatih Birol, Head of the International Energy Agency, attend to a press conference on the set of CNBC, on the sideline of the World Economic Forum, WEF, in Davos. EPA
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Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg believes public pressure is the key to real action on reducing climate change, but admits that it is unfair to demand the same changes from developing countries as the Western world.

Acknowledging she is not in the position to tell “overexploited countries” what to do, Ms Thunberg said the climate crisis “boils down to justice and what has already happened”.

She said the West, because of the damage it inflicted on the planet in the past, has an even bigger responsibility to compensate and make sure equity is at the heart of climate action.

Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, two days after police briefly detained her at a protest against a coal mine in Germany, Ms Thunberg was asked whether developing countries should use fossil fuels.

“The emissions we emit stay in the atmosphere for a long time and will continue to destabilise the biosphere for many generations to come. And, of course, not only environmental effects but also people," she said.

"So who am I to say that I have had these privileges but now others who haven’t been able to do so shouldn’t because we are facing a crisis and so on.

“We have an even bigger responsibility because to compensate and make sure that equity is at the heart of climate action.”

Ms Thunberg appeared alongside three other activists, Helena Gualinga from Ecuador, Vanessa Nakate from Uganda and Luisa Neubauer from Germany.

Fatih Birol, IEA Executive Director, who took part in the roundtable discussion alongside the activists, warned “attention to climate change is sliding down” the agenda.

“It is now time to ring the alarm bells,” he said. But he said there was also cause for “slight optimism”.

"Last year the amount of renewables coming to the market was record high,” added Mr Birol.

However, the change was not happening quickly enough, he said.

Ms Thunberg said real change will require mobilising a “critical mass of people”.

She came to prominence in 2018, when for almost three weeks before the Swedish election in September 2018, she skipped school to sit outside her country’s parliament with School Strike for Climate sign.

Ms Thunberg joined by more people as the days went on, with her story garnering international media attention. She returned to school after the election, but continued to miss classes on Fridays to campaign for more action on climate change.

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Updated: January 19, 2023, 2:03 PM