The UK government’s active support for fossil fuels and airport expansion is “beyond absurd”, Greta Thunberg has told MPs.
The 16-year-old Swedish student, who sparked a global youth-based movement when she began a “climate strike” outside Sweden’s parliament last year, gave a typically blunt speech. She told MPs: “This ongoing irresponsible behaviour will no doubt be remembered in history as one of the greatest failures of humankind.”
Thunberg, who had earlier met the heads of several of the UK’s political parties, also said today’s generation of leaders around the world had not acted fast enough to halt climate change. “You lied to us. You gave us false hope. You told us that the future was something to look forward to,” she said. “You don’t listen to the science because you are only interested in solutions that will enable you to carry on like before.”
Some consider the UK to be a leader in the fight against global warming, but Thunberg was fierce in her criticism: “The UK’s active current support of new exploitation of fossil fuels, like for example the UK shale gas fracking industry, the expansion of its North Sea oil and gas fields, the expansion of airports, as well as the planning permission for a brand new coalmine, is beyond absurd.”
She said the UK had a “mind-blowing historical carbon debt”, referring to the nation’s cumulative emissions since the industrial revolution. The UK government also uses “very creative carbon accounting”, she said, by not including the emissions from imported goods in headline figures. The former UN chief Ban Ki-Moon also recently criticised the UK government’s funding of fossil fuel projects in other countries.
Thunberg said there was still just about time to stop climate change: “I’m sure that the moment we start behaving as if we were in an emergency, we can avoid climate and ecological catastrophe. Humans are very adaptable. But the opportunity to do so will not last for long.”
About 1.6 million students are estimated to have skipped school to protest against climate inaction, prompting some criticism over lost education. Thunberg said: “I assure you we will go back to school the moment you start listening to science and give us a future. Is that really too much to ask?”
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