Donald Trump urged world leaders at Davos to ‘reject the environmental prophets of doom’ during his keynote address to the World Economic Forum on Tuesday.
The US President branded climate activists ‘the heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune tellers’ while rattling off a list of projections that he said failed to come true, including overpopulation in the 1960s and the ‘end of oil’ in the 1990s.
Trump’s remarks were a clear swipe at 17-year-old Greta Thunberg who was sitting in the audience for his speech, who had earlier chastised world and business leaders for ‘doing nothing’ to stop climate change.
He then touted America’s fossil fuel revolution in the form of shale gas and oil, inviting European leaders to invest.
Donald Trump gave the first keynote address to the World Economic Forum in Davos on Sunday, telling world leaders to reject ‘prophets of doom’ on the environment and calling them ‘foolish’
Trump insisted that ‘now is a time for optimism’ as he touted the American shale oil and gas revolution, while encouraging European leaders to invest
The remark was swipe at teen climate activist Greta Thunberg, who sat in the audience during his speech (pictured)
Greta had earlier in the day accused world leaders of failing to do anything to protect the climate, ahead of a second address due to take place this afternoon
Greta, who was due to give her own address shortly after Trump, was pictured leaving the auditorium while the US President was still on stage behind her
Donald Trump speaks to waiting members of the media following his keynote address at Davos on Tuesday morning
Also in the auditorium listening to the speech was Trump’s daughter Ivanka (left) and her husband Jared Kushner (centre)
Trump used his speech to tout the US shale gas and oil revolution which has made America the largest producer of oil and gas in the world, before inviting European leaders to buy it
In a surprise move, Trump said the US will join an initiative called the ‘one trillion trees’ project in order to conserve ‘the majesty of God’s creation and the natural beauty of our world.’
But he said technical innovation, not restricting economic growth, is the way forward. ‘Fear and doubt is not a good thought process,’ he said. ‘This is not a time for pessimism but a time for optimism.’
Greta walked out while Trump was still stood on stage in order to deliver her own address to a smaller audience, in which she insisted on the need for greater actions on the climate.
In a swipe at the President, she said that it is no good planting trees across Africa ‘while at the same time forests like the Amazon are being slaughtered at an infinitely higher rate’.
Further challenging Trump, she called on world leaders and businesses to immediately stop investing in fossil fuels, divest away from industries linked to fossil fuels, and halt fossil fuel subsidies.
‘I wonder, what will you tell your children was the reason to fail and leave them facing a climate chaos you knowingly brought upon them?’ she asked.
Parroting her remarks from when she addressed the conference last year, she added: ‘Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fuelling the flames by the hour.
‘We are still telling you to panic, and to act as if you loved your children above all else.
Greta then gave her own speech to a smaller audience in which she urged world and business leaders to immediately stop investing in and subsidising fossil fuels
Parroting her remarks from Davos a year ago, Thunberg said ‘our house is still on fire, and your inaction is fuelling the flames’, before adding: ‘What will you tell your children was the reason to fail?’
Donald Trump gave a thumbs up to reporters as he arrived at Davos, wearing special anti-slip covers on his shoes as he walked across the snowy ground
Trump was flown to Davos from Zurich on board Marine One (pictured close to the camera) ahead of his address on Tuesday
Trump waves to the media as he is surrounded by security at Davos on Tuesday
Trump arrived in Zurich on board the presidential jet, Air Force One, on Tuesday morning
Trump gave an insight into his thoughts as he headed to the conference, saying he aims to bring ‘hundreds of billions of dollars’ back to the US
‘Without treating this as a real crisis we cannot solve it,’ she said. ‘It will require much more than this, this is just the very beginning.’
Thunberg is due to speak again around 1pm local time.
The forum’s own Global Risks report published last week warned that ‘climate change is striking harder and more rapidly than many expected’ with global temperatures on track to increase by at least three degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) towards the end of the century.
There are no expectations that Trump and Thunberg, who have exchanged barbs through Twitter, will actually meet, but the crowded venue and intense schedule mean a chance encounter cannot be ruled out.
When Trump and his entourage walked through UN headquarters last year at the annual General Assembly, a photo of the teenager staring in apparent fury at the president from the sidelines went viral.
U.S. President Donald Trump delivers a speech next to World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab at the conference
President Donald Trump talks with reporters falling his speech at the World Economic Forum
Greta Thunberg (pictured today) has told the World Economic Forum in Davos that leaders have ‘done nothing’ to fight climate change, despite increased awareness
The 17-year-old climate activist spoke on the opening morning of the conference ahead of a keynote address by climate change sceptic Donald Trump (pictured arriving in Switzerland)
Security is high around Davos as 3,000 world and business leaders are expected in the Alpine town during the three-day meeting
Sustainability is the buzzword at the forum, which began in 1971, with heel crampons handed out to participants to encourage them to walk on the icy streets rather than use cars, and the signage paint made out of seaweed.
Trump’s opposition to renewable energy, his withdrawal from the Paris climate accord negotiated under his predecessor Barack Obama, and the free hand extended to the fossil fuel industry puts him at odds with the entire thrust of the event.
‘Climate change is a hot topic at Davos,’ said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, adding there had been a ‘change in the atmosphere’ and realisation that climate change represented a downside risk for the economy.
EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said at a welcome ceremony in Davos that ‘for too long, humanity took away resources from the environment and in exchange produced waste and pollution’.
Business leaders attending the forum will be keen to tout their awareness on climate change but are likely also to be concerned by the state of the global economy whose prospects, according to the IMF, have improved but remain brittle.
The IMF cut its global growth estimate for 2020 to 3.3 percent, saying that a recent truce in the trade war between China and the US had brought some stability but that risks remained.
Also expected at the conference are 1,200 environmental protesters who have spent three days walking there from the nearby town of Landquart
Ahead of the World Economic Forum, Greta gave a speech in the Swiss city of Lausanne in which she promised world leaders ‘you haven’t seen anything yet’
Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, pictured during his welcoming address to leaders on Monday night
‘We are already seeing some tentative signs of stabilisation but we have not reached a turning point yet,’ said IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva.
Activists meanwhile will be pressing for much more concrete action to fight inequality, after Oxfam issued a report outlining how the number of billionaires has doubled in the past decade and the world’s 22 richest men now have more wealth than all the women in Africa.
Other key priorities will be exploring how to battle biodiversity loss, narrow the digital divide between the internet haves and have nots and step up the fight against pandemics in the face of vaccine hesitancy and drug resistance.
‘I am angry about the state of the world but I am also determined to engage and provide solutions and deliver,’ WWF director general Marco Lambertini told AFP. ‘There needs to be healthy balance between these two sentiments.’
The risk of global conflict will also loom large after the spike in tensions between the United States and Iran, following the killing of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike.
But a planned appearance by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif – which could have paved the way for a showdown or even meeting with Trump – has been cancelled.
Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido – who declared himself acting president last year – will be attending the forum in defiance of a travel ban imposed by the regime of President Nicolas Maduro.
OUR HOUSE IS STILL ON FIRE: GRETA’S FULL SPEECH
One year ago I came to Davos and told you that our house is on fire. I said I wanted you to panic.
I’ve been warned that telling people to panic about the climate crisis is a very dangerous thing to do. But don’t worry. It’s fine. Trust me, I’ve done this before and I assure you it doesn’t lead to anything.
And for the record, when we children tell you to panic we’re not telling you to go on like before.
We’re not telling you to rely on technologies that don’t even exist today at scale and that science says perhaps never will.
We are not telling you to keep talking about reaching ‘net zero emissions’ or ‘carbon neutrality’ by cheating and fiddling around with numbers.
We are not telling you to ‘offset your emissions’ by just paying someone else to plant trees in places like Africa while at the same time forests like the Amazon are being slaughtered at an infinitely higher rate.
Planting trees is good, of course, but it’s nowhere near enough of what needs to be done, and it cannot replace real mitigation or rewilding nature.
Let’s be clear. We don’t need a ‘low carbon economy.’ We don’t need to ‘lower emissions.’ Our emissions have to stop. And until we have the technologies that at scale can put our emissions to minus then we must forget about net zero — we need real zero.
Because distant net zero emission targets will mean absolutely nothing if we just continue to ignore the carbon dioxide budget — which applies for today, not distant future dates. If high emissions continue like now even for a few years, that remaining budget will soon be completely used up.
The fact that the USA is leaving the Paris accord seems to outrage and worry everyone, and it should. But the fact that we’re all about to fail the commitments you signed up for in the Paris Agreement doesn’t seem to bother the people in power even the least.
Any plan or policy of yours that doesn’t include radical emission cuts at the source starting today is completely insufficient for meeting the 1.5-degree or well-below-2-degrees commitments of the Paris Agreement.
And again — this is not about right or left. We couldn’t care less about your party politics.
From a sustainability perspective, the right, the left as well as the centre have all failed. No political ideology or economic structure has been able to tackle the climate and environmental emergency and create a cohesive and sustainable world. Because, in case you haven’t noticed, that world is currently on fire.
You say children shouldn’t worry. You say: ‘Just leave this to us. We will fix this, we promise we won’t let you down.’
And then — nothing. Silence. Or something worse than silence. Empty words and promises which give the impression that sufficient action is being taken.
All the solutions are obviously not available within today’s societies. Nor do we have the time to wait for new technological solutions to become available to start drastically reducing our emissions.
So of course the transition isn’t going to be easy. It will be hard. And unless we start facing this now together, with all cards on the table, we won’t be able to solve this in time.
In the days running up to the 50th anniversary of the World Economic Forum, I joined a group of climate activists who are demanding that you, the world’s most influential business and political leaders, begin to take the action needed. We demand that at this year’s World Economic Forum participants from all companies, banks, institutions and governments:
We don’t want these things done by 2050, 2030 or even 2021, we want this done now.
It may seem like we’re asking for a lot. And you will of course say that we are naïve. But this is just the very minimum amount of effort that is needed to start the rapid sustainable transition.
So either you do this or you’re going to have to explain to your children why you are giving up on the 1.5-degree target.
Giving up without even trying.
Well I’m here to tell you that unlike you, my generation will not give up without a fight.
The facts are clear, but they’re still too uncomfortable for you to address. You just leave it because you think it’s too depressing and people will give up. But people will not give up. You’re the ones who are giving up.
Last week I met with coal miners in Poland who lost their jobs because their mine was closed. And even they had not given up. On the contrary, they seem to understand the fact that we need to change more than you do.
I wonder, what will you tell your children was the reason to fail and leave them facing a climate chaos you knowingly brought upon them? The 1.5-degree target? That it seemed so bad for the economy that we decided to resign the idea of securing future living conditions without even trying?
Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fuelling the flames by the hour. We are still telling you to panic, and to act as if you loved your children above all else.