Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg warned US lawmakers yesterday that history will hold them accountable for climate catastrophes if they do not stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry before it is too late.
Thunberg, 18, whose activism has inspired a global movement, testified virtually to a House of Representatives panel on the day President Biden kicked off a virtual two-day Earth Day summit pledging to slash US greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030.
“The simple fact, and uncomfortable fact, is that if we are to live up to our promises and commitments in Paris, we have to end fossil fuel subsidies … now,” Thunberg said, referring to the international 2016 Paris Climate Change Agreement. The United States rejoined the Paris agreement in February, after former President Donald Trump pulled out.
Thunberg, whose activism began at age 15 when she started skipping school on Fridays to protest outside the Swedish parliament for climate change, admitted she was pessimistic.
“I don’t believe for a second that you will actually do this,” she lectured the lawmakers of the House Oversight Committee’s environmental subcommittee.
“You still have time to do the right thing and to save your legacies, but that window of time is not going to last for long,” Thunberg said. “We the young people are the ones who are going to write about you in the history books …So my advice for you is to choose wisely.”
“How long do you honestly believe people in power like you will get away with it?” the Swedish activist said via videolink in a biting rebuke to a US House panel.
“How long do you think you can continue ignoring the climate crisis, the global aspect of equity and historic emissions without being held accountable?” she asked.
Yesterday’s remarks coincided with Biden’s Earth Day Climate Summit, in which he committed to aggressive new goals for reducing emissions.
As leaders like China’s President Xi Jinping, Narendra Modi of India and Russia’s Vladimir Putin expressed commitments to reduce emissions, Thunberg said global action was still far short of where it should be.
“It is the year 2021. The fact we are still having this discussion and even more that we are still subsidising fossil fuels directly or indirectly using taxpayer money is a disgrace,” she said. “It is proof that we have not understood the climate emergency at all.”