Greta Thunberg is “open” to meeting with United States President Joe Biden at the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, though the young Swedish activist does not expect much from either the U.S. leader or the make-or-break summit that runs Oct. 31 to Nov. 12.
In an interview with the global media collaboration Covering Climate Now last Wednesday, Thunberg expressed surprise at the idea that Biden, or any world leader, might want to sit down with her at COP26, but said she was open to the possibility, if asked. “I guess that will depend on the situation,” she said. “I don’t see why these people want to meet with me, but yeah.”
A week before she entertained the question about whether she would meet with Biden, Thunberg had accused the U.S. president and other world leaders of offering pretty words but no real action on climate, only “blah blah blah,” in a speech to the Youth4Climate summit. That Sept. 28 clip went viral.
In the CCNow interview, conducted by NBC News, Reuters and The Nation, she complained that youth climate activists “are not being taken seriously” by world leaders. “They’re just saying, ‘We listen to you,’ and then they applaud us, and then they go on just like before.”
The suggestion that Biden has not only spoken strongly about the climate crisis but also is trying to pass the most ambitious climate legislation in U.S. history does not impress Thunberg. The climate measures in the Democrats’ spending plan now under ferocious negotiation in Washington have “been so much watered down by lobbyists,” she said; “so we should not pretend that this would be a solution to the climate crisis.”
Biden’s political problem — that as president in a democracy, he shares power with a legislative body where he faces unanimous Republican opposition that is determined to block his agenda — does not interest her. She judges by results only: “Emissions are still going up.”
End the Empty Talk and Greenwashing
The notion of meeting with the president of the world’s other climate change superpower, Xi Jinping of China, seemed even more distant to Thunberg than a meeting with Biden. Calling Xi “a leader of a dictatorship,” she nevertheless did not rule out the idea. She stressed, however that “democracy is the only solution to the climate crisis, since the only thing that could get us out of this situation is … massive public pressure.”
Wearing a gray hoodie and speaking from her kitchen table in Stockholm, Thunberg said that she will attend November’s COP26 despite the summit’s potential for “empty talk” and “greenwashing” because the gathering of thousands of government officials, activists, scientists and journalists is an opportunity “to show that we are in an emergency, and … we are going to try to mobilize people around this.”
“In such an emergency as we are in right now, everyone needs to take their moral responsibility, at least I think so, and use whatever power they have, whatever platform they have, to try to influence and push in the right direction, to make a change,” she said. “I think that’s our duty as human beings.”
Making COP26 a success, Thunberg suggested, requires unflinching honesty about “the gap between what we are saying and what we are actually doing … That’s not what we are doing now. We are trying to find concrete, small solutions that are symbolic in order to make it seem like we are doing something, without actually confronting the problem at all. We are still not counting all the emissions when we are announcing targets. We are still using creative accounting when it comes to emissions cuts, and so on. As long as that’s the case, we will not get very far.”
Thunberg endorsed the many lawsuits demanding compensation from fossil fuel companies for their decades of lying about climate change and the resulting damage and suffering, especially in front-line commun