Thunberg to Congress on climate change: ‘You still have time to do the right thing’

Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg speaks at the Climate Action Summit at the 74th General Debate at the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City on September 23, 2019. File Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI

April 22 (UPI) — Prominent climate activist Greta Thunberg, during a congressional hearing Thursday, challenged world leaders to end fossil fuel subsidies, end new exploration and extraction and completely divest from the industry.

The 18-year-old from Sweden made her comments remotely while testifying before a House committee that examined the impact of fossil fuels on the climate.

Thunberg expressed frustration that global leaders still aren’t taking climate change and the environmental dangers of fossil fuels seriously enough.

“It is the year 2021 [and] the fact that we’re still having this discussion and that we are still subsiding fossil fuels, directly or indirectly using taxpayer’s money, is a disgrace,” she told the panel. “It is clear proof that we don’t understand the climate emergency at all.”

Thunberg also said companies need to drastically ramp up efforts to limit carbon emissions and reduce greenhouse gases or face pushback from young adults like her.

“My generation will not give up without a fight,” she added. “The climate crisis does not exist in the public debate today.”

Thunberg said it’s not too late to take on climate change issues — but said opportunities are going to begin to disappear as more time passes.

“You still have time to do the right thing and save your legacies,” she said. “But that window of time is going to last for long.

“We, the young people, will be the ones writing about you in the history books. We will be the ones who will decide how you will be remembered. My advice to you is the choose wisely.”

Thursday’s hearing examined the health and economic impacts of fossil fuel subsidies and why President Joe Biden’s administration should fulfill commitments to end them and examine how they disproportionately affect vulnerable communities.

Subcommittee Chair Rep. Ro Khanna said before the hearing that the fossil fuel industry received between $10 billion and $15 billion in direct pandemic relief from the federal government under former President Donald Trump.

Thunberg became a prominent climate activist after founding “Fridays For Future,” a movement led by young people seeking government action to combat climate change. During a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in 2020, she said that “pretty much nothing has been done” to address climate change and called for more action.

Shutdowns related to the coronavirus pandemic last year ushered in a major decline in carbon emissions worldwide, but experts said this week the world is on track to wipe out most of those gains in 2021.

Thursday’s House hearing also included testimony from Harvard University professor Joseph Aldy, Stockholm Environmental Institute Climate Policy Program Director Peter Erickson, Ohio Valley resident Jull Antares Hunkler and Tara Houska, founder of the Giniw Collective, a climate group led by indigenous women.

Thunberg’s testimony came on the day President Joe Biden opened a two-day virtual summit on climate change, which included the leaders of dozens of countries and Pope Francis. Some of the foreign leaders participating are Chinese President Xi Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.


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