Greta Thunberg told world leaders in Davos that ‘nothing has been done’ to fight climate change as she addressed the World Economic Forum.
The 17-year-old was speaking as part of a panel of teen activists on sustainability during the opening morning of the annual conference on Tuesday.
Her appearance at Davos, for the second year running, comes ahead of a keynote address by outspoken climate change sceptic Donald Trump, who is likely to present a starkly different vision of the environment.
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)
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
Trump is set to give the first keynote address around 11.30am local time, just as his impeachment trial gets underway in Washington.
While it is unclear exactly what he will say, he did tweet some of his thoughts during the flight, writing: ‘Heading to Davos, Switzerland, to meet with World and Business Leaders and bring Good Policy and additional Hundreds of Billions of Dollars back to the United States of America!
‘We are now NUMBER ONE in the Universe, by FAR!!’
During the early-morning panel discussion, Thunberg noted that more people are aware of the problems facing the environment than ever before.
But, she added, almost no concrete steps have been taken to tackle problems the world is facing, such as reducing C02 emissions.
While Trump and Thunberg are not expected to meet at the summit, they have sparred over Twitter in the past and will present very different views on the environment
Trump arrived in Zurich on board the presidential jet, Air Force One, before boarding a helicopter which took him on to Davos
‘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.
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’.
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’
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.
‘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.
Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, pictured during his welcoming address to leaders on Monday night
‘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.