‘Build back better, blah blah blah’: Greta Thunberg mocks Joe Biden and Boris Johnson in climate speech

Activist accused politicians and summit organisers of not doing enough

Lamiat Sabin
Tuesday 28 September 2021 19:35 BST
Italy: Greta Thunberg Speaks At Youth4Climate Summit In Milan
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Greta Thunberg has mocked leaders around the world for delivering too much “blah blah blah” and not doing enough to tackle climate change.

The Swedish activist, alongside fellow environmentalist Vanessa Nakate, from Uganda, was in Milan speaking at a youth summit.

At the climate gathering, Greta said: “Build back better. Blah, blah, blah. Green economy. Blah blah blah. Net-zero by 2050. Blah, blah, blah.”

Many politicians, notably PM Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden, have regularly used these slogans and terms in speeches. In February, Mr Johnson teased Mr Biden at a G7 meeting for possibly having “nicked [the slogans] from us”.

Greta, 18, said she even doubted the intentions of the organisers of the Youth4Climate event, which is run by the World Bank Group.

She said: “They invite cherry-picked young people to pretend they are listening to us. But they are not.

“They are clearly not listening to us. Just look at the numbers. Emissions are still rising. The science doesn’t lie.

“Leaders like to say, ‘We can do it.’ They obviously don’t mean it. We do.”

Vanessa, 24, said that promises of about £85bn a year to help poorer countries that are vulnerable to the impact of climate change has not materialised.

The wealthiest nations have failed to fulfil their promise made in 2010, at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to pay that amount by 2020.

She said that wildfires in California and Greece and floods in Germany and Belgium show that “loss and damage is now possible everywhere”, but that Africa is particularly affected despite the continent being the “lowest emitter of CO2 emissions of any continent except Antartica”.

Last week, she said she saw police taking away a body that had been washed away by storms in the Ugandan capital Kampala, while others searched for more victims.

Her mother told her that one man dragged off by the water had been trying to save the goods he was selling from being washed away.

Vanessa added: “No more empty conferences. It’s time to show us the money. It’s time, it’s time, it’s time. And don’t forget to listen to the most-affected people and areas.”

Ms Thunberg was pictured comforting Vanessa as she broke out in tears after having become overwhelmed during her speech.

The three-day-long summit hosted about 400 activists aged 15 to 29 from 186 countries.

It intends to send its recommendations regarding climate change to the UN Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow that begins on 31 October.

Chinese president Xi Jinping has announced that China will no longer fund coal-fired plants abroad, and Mr Biden announced a plan for the US to double financial aid for green growth to poorer nations.

In addition, Turkey has said it will adhere to the Paris Agreement protocols and South Africa announced more ambitious emissions targets.

Roberto Cingolani, Italy’s minister for ecological transition, who is hosting the Milan youth summit, said: “These are good steps.

“They mean that they are moving in the right direction ... I never expect quantum jumps in this gigantic operation on a world level. But the indicators are all good.”

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