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'You are failing us': Teen climate change activist gives a passionate speech at the UN

16-year-old Greta Thunberg took adults to task over the environment.

September 23, 2019, 7:11 PM

The young activist didn’t mince words when she took the stage -- and took adults to task at the United Nation's Climate Action Summit on Monday.

Greta Thunberg -- the Swedish 16-year-old who’s met with the Pope and sailed across the Atlantic to bring attention to threats to the environment -- spoke during the opening of the event.

"My message is that we'll be watching you," Thunberg said, sparking applause from the audience before launching into her powerful and emotional speech.

"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," she said.

“People are suffering, people are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing,” she continued. “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth,"

PHOTO: Greta Thunberg speaks at the Climate Action Summit at the United Nations, Sept. 23, 2019, in New York.
Greta Thunberg speaks at the Climate Action Summit at the United Nations, Sept. 23, 2019, in New York.
Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

"For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you're doing enough when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight,” Thunberg said. “You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that, because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil.”

"You are failing us, but the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you and if you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you," is how she closed her speech.

Thunberg is among the group of teenagers from around the world who filed a legal complaint against Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany and Turkey over the climate crisis through the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, seeking recognition that climate change is a children’s rights crisis and action to address it. She’s also one of the main forces behind Fridays for Future, an ongoing school strike to bring attention to climate issues.

According to the U.N., "affordable, scalable solutions are available now that will enable us all to leapfrog to cleaner, more resilient economies," and aggressive action could reduce emissions within 12 years to stop the increase in temperatures.

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