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Youth climate activist Greta Thunberg takes part in a "Fridays for Future" demonstration in Hamburg on February 21, 2020. (Photo: Christian Charisius/Picture Alliance via Getty Images)

Youth climate activist Greta Thunberg takes part in a "Fridays for Future" demonstration in Hamburg on February 21, 2020. (Photo: Christian Charisius/Picture Alliance via Getty Images)

Greta Thunberg and Fellow Activists Decry 'Political Inaction' on Climate Crisis After Two Years of School Strikes

"We still have the future in our own hands. But time is rapidly slipping through our fingers."

Jessica Corbett

A day before meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, four Fridays for Future leaders published an op-ed in The Guardian on Wednesday calling out world leaders for failing to tackle the planetary crisis despite the past two years of youth-led global protests demanding urgent action to achieve climate and environmental justice.

Greta Thunberg of Sweden, Luisa Neubauer of Germany, and Anuna de Wever van der Heyden and Adélaïde Charlier, both of Belgium, noted that their meeting with Merkel, whose government took over the European Council presidency in July, "will be exactly two years since the first school strike for the climate took place."

Millions worldwide have joined the movement and taken to the streets to call for ambitious policies, "but over these past two years, the world has also emitted more than 80 gigatonnes of CO2," the activists write. "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. Many lives and livelihoods have been lost. And this is only the very beginning."

Although some world leaders have publicly recognized human-caused global heating as an "existential crisis," organized summits to pave a sustainable path forward, and issued emergency declarations about the state of the planet, "when it comes to action we are still in a state of denial," they charge. "The climate and ecological crisis has never once been treated as a crisis."

"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," warn the youth leaders, who came together last month to write an open letter that demanded European Union and global leaders #FaceTheClimateEmergency.

Since that letter's unveiling, over 125,000 people have signed on to it. The activists plan to deliver the letter—which detailed the necessity of overhauling current economic and political systems to ensure a habitable future planet—and the signatures to the German chancellor.

"We will tell Merkel that she must face up to the climate emergency," the activists vow, arguing that Europe has a responsibility to act because of its significant amount of planet-heating emissions. "It is immoral that the countries that have done the least to cause the problem are suffering first and worst. The E.U. must act now, as it has signed up to do in the Paris agreement."

Welcoming the group's op-ed in a series of tweets Wednesday, Greenpeace International executive director Jennifer Morgan declared that the youth climate leaders "do not need any more empty promises or shallow photo ops."

Specifically, the Fridays for Future leaders are calling for "halting all fossil fuel investments and subsidies, divesting from fossil fuels, making ecocide an international crime, designing policies that protect workers and the most vulnerable, safeguarding democracy, and establishing annual, binding carbon budgets based on the best available science."

Morgan referenced last month's open letter—of which she is a signatory—and tweeted that Merkel "has the chance of her life to deliver change now that will ensure a more stable, secure, and peaceful future for millions of youth around the world, and the generations to come."

Wednesday's op-ed echoes messages from the letter and a radio program that Thunberg released earlier this summer, citing United Nations scientific reports that signal "the climate and ecological crisis can no longer be solved within today's systems." As they put it: "Even a child can see that policies of today don't add up with the current best available science."

"We need to end the ongoing wrecking, exploitation, and destruction of our life support systems and move towards a fully decarbonized economy that is centered on the well-being of all people, democracy, and the natural world," the activists argue.

"We still have the future in our own hands. But time is rapidly slipping through our fingers," they warn. "We can still avoid the worst consequences. But to do that, we have to face the climate emergency and change our ways. And that is the uncomfortable truth we cannot escape."


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