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Vanessa Nakate (R) leans on Greta Thunberg

Vanessa Nakate (R) cries after her speech as Greta Thunberg comforts her during the opening plenary session of the Youth4Climate pre-COP 26 event. The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP 26, is scheduled to be held in the city of Glasgow, Scotland between 31 October and 12 November 2021. (Photo: Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Greta Thunberg, Vanessa Nakate Excoriate World Leaders for 'Blah, Blah, Blah' Climate Failures

While Uganda's Nakate said humanity "cannot adapt to extinction," Thunberg from Sweden said lack of action is "a betrayal of all present and future generations."

Andrea Germanos

Noted young climate activists Greta Thunberg and Vanessa Nakate on Tuesday excoriated global leaders' response to the planetary crisis, with Thunberg calling it "a betrayal of all present and future generations."

"Our leaders are lost," said Nakate of Uganda, "and our planet is damaged."

"Our hopes and dreams drowned in their empty words and promises."
—Greta Thunberg

Their blunt remarks came in keynote addresses at the opening of the three-day Youth4Climate summit in Milan. Hundreds of young people are gathered there for in-person working groups to hash out proposals to present to ministers at the Pre-COP in Milan later this month and COP 26 United Nations climate talks starting next month in Glasgow.

Simply focusing on adaptation measures, as Nakate put it, amounts to climate injustice. "You cannot adapt to lost traditions. You cannot adapt to starvation. You cannot adapt to extinction," she said.

"Why is it so easy for leaders to open up new coal power plants, construct oil pipelines, and extract gas—which are all destroying our climate," Nakate said, "but so hard for them to acknowledge that loss and damage is here with us now?"

"Climate action is not a pick-and-choose," she continued, referencing the need to avert future impacts but also "deal with the loss and damage that is already happening."

"It's time for leaders to put loss and damage at the center of negotiation," said Nakate. "It's time to acknowledge that there's need for additional funding on top of what has already been promised for the most vulnerable. It's time for our leaders to wake up!"

"It’s time to show us the money," she said. "It's time, it's time, it's time."

Sweden's Thunberg, in her remarks, rejected as meaningless global leaders' coined phrases to talk about the climate crisis. "There is no Planet B. There is no Planet Blah. Blah blah blah. Blah blah blah."

"'Build back better.' Blah blah blah," she said.

"Net zero," Thunberg said. "Blah blah blah."

"This is all we hear from our so-called leaders," said Thunberg, "words—words that sound great but so far have led to no action. Our hopes and dreams drowned in their empty words and promises."

Watch Thunberg's full speech below:

She went on to blast "leaders' intentional lack of action" as "a betrayal of all present and future generations."

Thunberg concluded her speech leading the audience in a chant of "What do we want? Climate justice. When do we want it? Now!"

The summit began days after a global climate strike in which young activists in scores of countries took part in "Uproot the System" actions.

"As emissions and inequalities increase," tweeted German activist Luisa Neubauer promoting the strike, "we rise up and demand climate justice."


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