Interview with Greta Thunberg: “We’re not confronting the problem at all"

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Greta Thunberg on Saturday at a climate concert in Stockholm, Sweden. Greta Thunberg on Saturday at a climate concert in Stockholm, Sweden.
 
 
The young climate activist discusses her views regarding the upcoming United Nations climate change meeting, which will commence at the end of this month.
 
 
By Antonia González
 
“In such an emergency as we are in right now, everyone needs to take their moral responsibility,” said Greta Thunberg, wearing a hoodie as she spoke from her kitchen table in Stockholm, in an interview last week with the global media collaboration Covering Climate Now.
 
“To use whatever power they have, whatever platform they have, to try to influence and push in the right direction, to make a change,” she said.  “I think that’s our duty as human beings,” adds Greta as she dishes on the upcoming United Nations climate meeting “COP26” to be held in Glasgow, Scotland from October 31 to November 12.
 
The critical meeting will define the next steps for the international community on how to reduce the impacts of climate change. In particular, the UN summit aims to certify pledges to limit global temperatures to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average.
 
However, for Greta Thunberg, the young Swedish activist who turned 18 earlier this year, success at the next UN climate meeting will only come only if world leaders accept that their actions are not living up to their words. “We are not seeing that any world leaders are taking sufficient action. If they were, that would be great. That would be really good because that means that the world could follow them. Just imagine what would happen if one country started to act as if it was an emergency, but unfortunately we are not seeing that today.”
 
For Greta, such an approach requires unflinching honesty about the gap between what we say and what we do, which she exclaims is quite the opposite of what is happening now: “We are trying to find concrete, small solutions that are symbolic, in order to make it seem like we are doing something, anything, without actually confronting any of the problem at all. We are still not counting all the emissions when we are announcing targets. We are still using creative accounting when it comes to emission cuts, and so on. As long as that’s the case then we will not get very far.”
 
Greta said she will attend next month's conference, but expects to be disappointed once again. “I think, as it is now, it’s lots of blah blah blah and discussions, and just greenwashing and symbolism.” Still, she says the gathering of thousands of government officials, activists, scientists and journalists is a great opportunity to mobilize and “highlight this crisis, to show that we are in an emergency.”
 
 

 
 
The young Greta, who many thought might win the Nobel Peace Prize this year, also said the world's media “so far has failed in communicating the climate crisis.” That said, she is hopeful that the media can effect change, given its enormous role most recently in changing social behavior during the coronavirus pandemic. Says Greta: “If media decided with all the resources that they have to actually change things, to use their platform for good, then that could have... They could reach countless people in no time and that could have huge consequences, positive consequences.”
 
In the interview, she also endorses the many lawsuits currently demanding compensation from fossil fuel companies such as Exxon, British Petroleum and Chevron, whom she says, despite their own scientists telling them otherwise, have been lying about climate change for 40 years. “I think that these people need to be held accountable for all the damage that they have caused. I think that's the bare minimum to ask. Especially the people whose communities and whose health and livelihoods have been devastated by the actions of these companies. I think that's just the bare minimum to ask for.”
 
Thunberg's message
Since first emerging on the world stage, Greta Thunberg's message has been consistent: listen to the science and do what it requires, that the science says our planetary home is literally on fire and world leaders and everyone else should act accordingly.
 
Greta says, for her, for the Fridays For Future global network of school strikes and protests which she sparked, and for countless other climate activists around the world, there is no other option but to stay the course. “I think every activist has had many, many moments when they thought that ‘I can't do anything, I can’t make a difference.’ Of course, that includes me as well. But I think that we together have shown that that is not true. When people come together to organize, to mobilize, and to do campaigns that can have a massive impact it can change everything, it can change the public perception. So nothing is too small.”
 
 “When I’m taking action, I don’t feel like I am helpless and that things are hopeless, because then I feel like I’m doing everything I can,” said Greta. “And that gives me very much hope, especially to see all the other people all around the world, the activists, who are taking action and who are fighting for their present and for their future.”