Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg has accused world leaders and business chiefs of using “clever accounting and creative PR” to make it look like they are taking firm action in the fight against climate change.
The 16-year-old who sailed across the Atlantic to attend a United Nations summit after it was moved from Chile to Madrid, told delegates: “I still believe the biggest danger is not inaction.
“The real danger is when politicians and CEOs are making it look like real action is happening when in fact almost nothing is being done apart from clever accounting and creative PR.”
She also criticised governments at the COP25 climate talks for avoiding taking action to cut greenhouse gas emissions which continue to rise.
“Our leaders are not behaving as though we were in an emergency,” said the teenager.
“If there’s a child standing in the middle of the road and cars are coming at full speed, you don’t look away because it is too uncomfortable. You immediately run out and rescue that child.
“And without that sense of urgency, how can we, the people, understand that we are facing a real crisis.”
She said she used to start her speeches “with something personal or emotional to get everyone’s attention”, but “we no longer have time to leave out the science”.
She said the science showed that, at the current rate of emissions, the world is set to use up the whole “carbon budget” – the amount of pollution that can be put into the atmosphere and still keep global warming to 1.5C – in eight years.
She said targets by countries which had committed to reducing their emissions to zero by a certain date – as the UK has done by 2050 – appear impressive but are “misleading”
This is because they do not include aviation and shipping, or the emissions created by goods made in other countries and imported – and do not include “offsetting” emissions, she said.
“Zero by 2050 means nothing if high emissions continue for even a few years. Then the remaining budget will be gone.”
“Without seeing the full picture, we will not solve this crisis,” she said.
“Finding holistic solutions is what the COP should be all about but instead it seems to have turned into some kind of opportunity for countries to negotiate loopholes and to avoid raising their ambition,” she said.
“Countries are finding clever ways around having to take real action, like double-counting emissions reductions, and moving emissions overseas, and walking back on their promises to increase ambitions, or refusing to pay for solutions or loss and damage.
“This has to stop.”
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Countries represented at the Madrid climate conference are discussing how they can cut down on their greenhouse gas emissions.
Ms Thunberg’s outspoken stance on the issue has started an international movement – and inspired worldwide school strikes on the issue.
Millions of people have taken to the streets across the world to demand governments take emergency action on climate change.