Greta Thunberg has told the World Economic Forum in Davos that planting trees was not enough to address climate change, an apparent rebuke of a pledge made moments earlier by US President Donald Trump.
- Donald Trump called climate activists “heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune tellers”
- Greta Thunberg said the inaction of world leaders was hastening climate change
- Mr Trump said he was a “very big believer in the environment”
“Our house is still on fire,” Ms Thunberg said, echoing remarks she made at the annual meeting a year ago.
“Your inaction is fuelling the flames.”
The ongoing debate between the teenage activist and 73-year-old US President around climate change appeared an attempt by both to frame the argument at Davos.
Ms Thunberg called for an immediate end to fossil fuel investments in front of a packed audience less than a hour after watching Mr Trump make his keynote address in the Swiss ski resort.
Mr Trump announced the US would join an existing initiative to plant one trillion trees, but also spoke at length about the economic importance of oil and gas and called climate change activists “pessimistic” and the “heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune tellers”.
Ms Thunberg responded by referring to “empty words and promises” by world leaders.
“You say children shouldn’t worry… don’t be so pessimistic and then, nothing, silence,” Ms Thunberg said.
Earlier, she called on world leaders to listen to young activists, who have followed her to Davos this year.
“I’m not a person that can complain about not being heard,” she said, prompting laughter from the audience on the first day of the annual WEF meeting.
“The science and voice of young people is not the centre of the conversation, but it needs to be.”
Several young activists have travelled to the Swiss ski resort of Davos this year, following in Ms Thunberg’s footsteps.
Among the “climate heroes” being celebrated by the WEF are Irish teen scientist Fionn Ferreira, who created a solution for preventing micro plastics from reaching oceans.
They also include South African climate activist Ayakha Melithafa, 17, and Canadian Autum Peltier, who has been advocating for water conservation since she was 8.
Trump focusses on economy
In his address, Mr Trump mostly avoided environmental issues, instead talking up the US economy.
But he later told reporters: “I’m a very big believer in the environment. I want the cleanest water and the cleanest air”.
He attended the event despite his impeachment trial in the US getting underway today.
Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz said the strongest thing about Mr Trump’s speech was that it was scheduled between sessions on climate change. He criticized the President’s swipe at climate “pessimists”.
“As if what we are seeing with our eyes are not there,” Mr Stiglitz said. “It’s astounding.”
This was the second time Mr Trump has taken the stage at the WEF meeting. Two years ago, he urged companies to invest in America after passing the first tax cuts to encourage business spending.
This year, he stuck to the theme, picking up on some of the themes he voiced in 2018.
He thanked overseas companies for investing in the US, which he said was now on a better economic standing than he could have imagined when he took office three years ago.
“The time for scepticism is over,” he said.
“To every business looking for a place to succeed — there is no better place than the US.”
@wef: US President @realDonaldTrump spoke at #wef20, telling the audience the United States is in the midst of an economic boom.
He also told a packed auditorium that trade deals struck this month with China and Mexico represented a model for the 21st Century.
Mr Trump also took his biggest swipe yet at the Federal Reserve, whose policies he believes are holding back the US economy.
“The Fed raised rates too quickly and has lowered them too slowly,” he said.