Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg has told world leaders: “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”
Addressing the United Nations 2019 climate action summit in New York, she said: “This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you?
“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words and yet I’m one of the lucky ones.
“People are suffering. People are dying. Our eco-systems are collapsing.
“We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth – how dare you?”
In an emotional and charged speech, she reprimanded those who she accused of ignoring science and are too slow in their approach to tackle the world’s contributions to climate change.
US president Donald Trump, who has previously described climate change as “a hoax”, was a late addition to those attending the summit.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres ruled that countries would only be allowed to speak at the summit if they brought plans to reduce carbon emissions.
China, India, France, Germany and the UK are among those present, while Brazil and Saudi Arabia have stayed away.
Using plain but stern language, Greta told the audience of influential people from across the world: “You say you hear us and understand the urgency but no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that.
“If you really understood the situation, and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil and that I refuse to believe.”
Greta said: “How dare you pretend that this can be solved with business as usual and some technological solutions.”
Unusually for the campaigner, as she spoke her eyes filled with tears.
She said: “You are failing us. But young people are starting to understand your betrayal.”
Greta warned: “We will never forgive you” and “we will not let you get away with this.”
Closing her speech, she said: “Change is coming, whether you like it or not.”
The 16-year-old’s talk was followed by a speech from Pope Francis via video link, who questioned whether politicians were working hard enough to tackle climate change.
Greta’s speech came as the United Nations Special Envoy for Climate Change told Sky News commitments made under the Paris climate agreement are now no longer enough to limit global warming to acceptable levels.
“Climate change is moving faster than we expected, and faster than we are reacting to, so the meeting is a sound of an alarm,” Luis Alfonso de Alba said.
It comes after millions of people around the world took part in a global climate strike on Friday, inspired by Greta Thunberg.
Marches took place in 139 countries, with more than 200 events and demonstrations carried out in the UK alone.