Greta Thunberg likens global warming to a 'house which is on fire'

Swedish climate activist tells European Parliament that the 'fire brigade' had not yet been called to put out the blaze. 
Photo credit: European Parliament Audiovisual

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

04 Mar 2020

Thunberg, who has been at the forefront of climate protests in recent times, addressed the European Parliament on Wednesday in a passionate speech on the day the EU unveiled legislation aimed at tackling climate change. 

She told the packed parliamentary meeting, "We will not allow you to surrender on our future".

She said, “The house is on fire, but people have gone back into the house, watched a movie and gone to bed. The fire brigade has not even been called to put out the fire.”


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The teenager was speaking on the same day the European commission published its “climate law” which enshrines in legislation the EU’s political commitment to be climate neutral by 2050.

Thunberg, though, was scornful of the move, saying the climate law does not go far enough.

She said, “We need action today, not by 2030 or by 2050. This is an existential threat to humanity and not enough is being done.”

The EU, she told the meeting, had professed being a climate leader but had still failed to set sufficiently ambitious CO2 reduction targets.

She told the meeting that children like her who had taken part in climate demos had “sacrificed their education” in order to highlight the threat posed by global warming.

Dutch Greens committee member Bas Eickhout agreed with her, saying, “The climate law is not sufficiently ambitious.”

“The house is on fire, but people have gone back into the house, watched a movie and gone to bed. The fire brigade has not even been called to put out the fire” Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg

But Peter Liese, a centre right German EPP member of the committee, told Thunberg, “I disagree with you because I think this new law is ambitious and shows that we in Europe are doing more than anywhere else in tackling the climate emergency.”

Committee chair Pascal Canfin, a French Renew Europe member, reminded those attending that during Thunberg’s last visit to the institution ten months ago “you told us we are not doing enough on this and dealing with the catastrophic consequences of climate change. You are right. Some here today may hate you, but the facts are facts and we are in danger of losing the planet. Political leaders say what you say is fantastic, but they do nothing and that is why I am deeply convinced we need to act.”

Thunberg also met with the President of the Parliament David Sassoli later in the day. The activist will take part in the European Climate strike in Brussels on Friday.

She was allowed to visit the Parliament despite a moratorium on all outside visits to the chamber because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Commission had earlier published its climate law, a proposal to enshrine in legislation the EU’s political commitment to be climate neutral by 2050 and, according to a spokesman, “to protect the planet and our people.”

The spokesman said, “The climate law sets the direction of travel for all EU policy, and gives predictability for public authorities, businesses and citizens.”

President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “We are acting today to make the EU the world’s first climate neutral economic bloc by 2050. The Climate Law is the legal translation of our political commitment and sets us irreversibly on the path to a more sustainable future. It is the heart of the European Green Deal.” 

“We are acting today to make the EU the world’s first climate neutral economic bloc by 2050. The Climate Law is the legal translation of our political commitment and sets us irreversibly on the path to a more sustainable future. It is the heart of the European Green Deal” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen

Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, added: “We are turning words into action today, to show our European citizens that we are serious about reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The Climate Law will ensure we stay focused and disciplined, remain on the right track and are accountable for delivery.”

Further comment came BusinessEurope Director General Markus J. Beyrer who said the new law is an “important step to further organise actions towards the EU’s climate neutrality objective.”

He said, “European business supports the EU’s climate neutrality ambition by around mid-century and believes it’s crucial that politicians focus on “how” to get there. Europe has a big investment gap of around €270bn per year to even reach its existing 2030 climate targets.”

Beyrer added, “The question is not about whether this deep societal transformation is needed - on this we all agree. The key question is about how to get there in an economically and socially feasible manner. All critical aspects must now be addressed: from technological needs and public acceptance, to investment conditions and the risk of carbon and investment leakage. 

“For all this we need proper impact assessments, not only for the EU but also for its member states. European business has already contributed significantly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and is committed to accelerate this transition.”

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