Greta Thunberg asks world leaders to stop delivering ‘empty promises’ at Youth4Climate

Greta Thunberg gestures during opening plenary session of
(Image credit: LightRocket via Getty Images)

This week, the Youth4Climate conference is taking place in Milan, Italy, with near 400 young climate activists, planet-conscious youths and eco Gen Z'ers from 186 countries around the world attending.

Naturally, 18-year-old Greta Thunberg - who has become something of a figurehead for the climate change movement - is there, and delivered a passionate speech aimed at world leaders including the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, yesterday.

During her talk, she mocked those in power and used soundbites of theirs - which she said are as meaningful as 'blah, blah, blah' - to highlight their 'empty words and promises'.

For Boris, she criticised his use of the phrase 'expensive bunny hugging', saying: “This is not some expensive, politically correct, green act of bunny hugging”, and further mocked his use of 'build back better'.

“Build back better. Blah, blah, blah. Green economy. Blah blah blah. Net zero by 2050. Blah, blah, blah,” she said. “This is all we hear from our so-called leaders."

"Words that sound great but so far have not led to action. Our hopes and ambitions drown in their empty promises," she continued.

This comes just a month before COP26 - the climate summit gathering all of the polluting countries together to pledge action (the global goal is to keep the Earth's temperature no higher than 1.5C) - which will be held in Glasgow in November.

The recent 'code red' UN IPCC report found that carbon emissions look set to rise by 16% by 2030. They would need to fall by 50% to stay under the limit of 1.5C.

Alongside activist Vanessa Nakate from Uganda, Greta also called out the UK as 'objectively one of the biggest climate villains.'

“Of course we need constructive dialogue,” shared the activist. “But they’ve now had 30 years of blah, blah, blah and where has that led us? We can still turn this around – it is entirely possible. It will take immediate, drastic annual emission reductions. But not if things go on like today."

"Our leaders’ intentional lack of action is a betrayal toward all present and future generations.”

The summit is being held in Italy as Italy is the UK's COP26 partner.

On being invited, Greta said: “They invite cherry-picked young people to meetings like this to pretend that they listen to us. But they clearly don’t listen to us. Our emissions are still rising. The science doesn’t lie."

Ally Head
Senior Health, Sustainability and Relationships Editor

Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Senior Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, nine-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She's won a BSME for her sustainability work, regularly hosts panels and presents for events like the Sustainability Awards, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.