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The world remains in a “state of denial” over the scale of the climate emergency, according to teenage activist Greta Thunberg – who warned political leaders are still failing to make necessary changes.
Speaking ahead of the second anniversary of the first school strike protest she organised in Sweden, the 17-year-old environmental campaigner said the last two years have largely been lost to “inaction”.
Ms Thunberg and a group of youth climate activists are meeting German chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday to deliver a petition demanding EU leaders halt all investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction.
The petition letter has been signed by 125,000 people – including actor Leonardo DiCaprio, author Margaret Atwood, singer Billie Eilish and director Richard Curtis.
“The gap between what we need to do and what’s actually being done is widening by the minute. Effectively, we have lost another two crucial years to political inaction.”
Ms Thunberg hailed the efforts of millions of people who have taken to the streets to demand change over the past two years, and praised last November’s declaration of a “climate and environmental emergency” by the European parliament.
Accusing politicians of making “big speeches” but failing to act, the teenager added: “We will tell Merkel that she must face up to the climate emergency – especially as Germany now holds the presidency of the European council. Europe has a responsibility to act.”
Ms Thunberg and fellow campaigners are demanding EU governments sign up to “binding” carbon budgets based on the best available science, and also want member states to advocate to make “ecocide” a crime at the International Criminal Court.
“The climate and ecological crisis has never once been treated as a crisis,” she added in the opinion piece.
“We have seen continuous natural disasters taking place across the globe: wildfires, heatwaves, flooding, hurricanes, storms, thawing of permafrost and collapsing of glaciers and whole ecosystems ... this is only the very beginning.
Campaigners in the UK have drawn up a draft Climate and Ecological Emergencies Bill (CEE Bill) which would tighten the framework and accelerate the speed in which Boris Johnson’s government has to act.
Written with contributions by respected climate academics, alongside a lead author of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report, it will be put forward as a private member’s bill when parliament reconvenes on 1 September.