Davos 2023: Greta Thunberg accuses energy companies of throwing people ‘under the bus’

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) – Greta Thunberg called on the global energy industry and its financiers to end all fossil fuel investments on Thursday at a high-level meeting in Davos with the head of the International Energy Agency.

During a roundtable discussion with Fatih Birol on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting, activists said they submitted a “cease and desist” letter to CEOs calling for a halt to new oil, gas and coal extraction.

“As long as they can get away with it they will continue to invest in fossil fuels, they will continue to throw people under the bus,” Thunberg warned.

The oil and gas industry, which activists have accused of hijacking the climate change debate in the Swiss ski resort, said it needs to be part of the energy transition as fossil fuels will continue to play a major role in the energy mix. As the world transitions to a low carbon economy.

Thunberg, who was detained by police in Germany earlier this week during a demonstration at a coal mine, joined fellow activists Helena Gualinga from Ecuador, Vanessa Nakati from Uganda and Louisa Neubauer from Germany to discuss tackling the big issues with Birol.

Birol, whose agency makes policy recommendations on energy, thanked the activists for their meeting, but insisted the transition must involve a mix of stakeholders, particularly in the face of a global energy security crisis.

The head of the International Energy Agency, who met earlier Thursday with some of the biggest names in the oil and gas industry in Davos, said there was no reason to justify investing in new oil fields because of the energy crisis, saying that by the time those fields are operational, they will be in crisis. The climate will be worse.

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He also said he was less pessimistic than climate activists about the transition to clean energy.

“We can have slight legitimate optimism,” he said, adding, “Last year the amount of renewables coming to market was record high.”

But he acknowledged that transformation is not happening fast enough and warned that emerging and developing countries risked being left behind if advanced economies did not support transformation.

Youth climate activist Greta Thunberg takes part in a discussion on “Treating the climate crisis like a crisis” with International Energy Agency chief Fatih Birol (not pictured) on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, January 19, 2023 Reuters/Arnd Wegmann

‘real money’

The United Nations Climate Conference, which was held in Egypt last year, established a loss and damage fund to compensate countries most affected by climate change events.

Nakati, who held a solitary protest outside Uganda’s parliament for several months in 2019, said the fund “is still an empty bucket with no money at all”.

“Real money is needed for loss and damage.”

In 2019, 16-year-old Thunberg participated in the key meeting of the World Economic Forum, where she famously told leaders that “our house is on fire.” She returned to Davos the following year.

But she declined to participate as an official delegate this year, with the event returning to its usual venue in January.

When asked why she does not want to advocate for change from within, Thunberg said there are already activists who do.

“I think it should be people on the front lines, not privileged people like me,” she said. “I don’t think the changes we need are likely to come from within. They are more likely to come from the bottom up.”

Activists later walked together through the snowy streets of Davos, where many shops were temporarily converted into “pavilions” sponsored by companies or countries.

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Written by Lila De Critzer. Edited by Alexander Smith

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