Environmental activist Greta Thunberg furiously attacked world leaders at the United Nations on Monday for not doing more to tackle climate change, berating the assembled delegates and asking: “How dare you?”
Greta, 16, who began the “climate strike” movement encouraging children to miss school to protest on Fridays, also launched legal proceedings against five countries on Monday, arguing that they did not prevent climate change despite being aware of the damage it does.
The Swedish campaigner joined 15 other teenagers from countries including France, India, Germany and the Marshall Islands to file the suit at the UN.
“The petitioners do not seek compensation; no amount of money could compensate for the harm children are and will be suffering from climate change, both now and in the future,” the suit reads.
Instead they want the five countries – Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany and Turkey – to accept their mistakes, and pledge to do better in the future.
The five were chosen for being the biggest polluters of the 45 countries that ratified the third optional protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The UK, USA, China and Australia have not signed.
The suit was filed with the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.
Greta sailed across the Atlantic on an emissions-free racing yacht to be at the UN in New York, to avoid contributing to airplane emissions.
After two weeks at sea she arrived in the US on August 28 where she has met Barack Obama, staged protests and rallied others to her cause.
On Monday she took the stage alongside Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, to demand action.
“You come to us young people for hope – how dare you?” she said.
“You have stolen my dreams, my childhood, with your empty words.
“People are suffering, people are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing, we are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and the fairy tale of endless economic growth. How dare you?
“How dare you continue to look away, and come here saying that you are doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.”
She told the gathered politicians she did not believe they understood the situation, because if they did and continued to fail to act, they would be “evil” and she refused to believe that.
Mr Guterres said his generation had “failed”, and that they needed to make amends.
“My generation has failed in its responsibility to protect our planet. That must change. The climate crisis is caused by us, and the solutions must come from us,” he said.
Brazil and Australia were notably absent from the summit, after Mr Guterres said he would only invite those countries who made concrete promises to reduce climate change.
The UN estimates there needs to be between a three-fold and five-fold increase in efforts to cut greenhouse gases, to prevent global temperatures rising more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
China, which by far emits the most carbon but is also the world leader in renewable energy, called on developed countries to lead by example and cut emissions.
Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, announced that scientists will be able to use up to £1 billion of the aid budget inventing new technology to tackle the climate crisis in developing countries, alongside funding to protect wildlife.
Russia’s prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, announced on Monday that he had signed the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, vowing to reduce his country’s emissions.
Donald Trump, who withdrew from the Paris agreement in June 2017 made a surprise appearance at the summit.
Mr Trump has repeatedly expressed scepticism about climate change and called it a Chinese hoax designed to hamper US industry.
He listened to Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister, and Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, for around 15 minutes before leaving the hall.
Miss Thunberg was caught on camera scowling as he went past.
Emmanuel Macron, the French president, who presents himself internationally as a champion of environment issues, begged other nations to increase their pledges to the Green Climate Fund, which helps poorer nations with climate issues.
France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Norway, Denmark and Sweden have recently doubled their pledges.
“We are now at $7 billion,” he said. “The target is $10 billion, to make up for the United States withdrawal.”
He then suggested America should reconsider adding money, to the applause of other leaders.
Mr Macron praised Greta for her activism, but angered Poland by suggesting that protesters focus the country which still relies heavily on coal.
“Marching every Friday to say that the planet is burning, that’s nice, but that is not the problem,” Mr Macron said.
“Go protest in Poland! Help me move those I cannot push forward.”
Germany and Finland announced on Monday that they would be coal free within a decade.