The eyes of future generations are on world leaders to take urgent action on climate change, teenage activist Greta Thunberg has told the UN.
In an impassioned speech at the UN climate action summit, the 16-year-old, who has inspired a global climate strike movement, told delegates they would never be forgiven if they failed to tackle rising temperatures.
Ms Thunberg, who travelled to the US by yacht to avoid flying, said she should not be up on stage, but should be in school on the other side of the ocean.
She said: “You come to us young people for hope — how dare you? You have stolen my dreams, my childhood with your empty words.
People are suffering, people are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing, we are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and the fairytale of endless economic growth. How dare you?
“How dare you continue to look away, and come here saying that you are doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.”
She told the gathered politicians she did not believe they understood the situation, because if they did and continued to fail to act, they would be “evil” and she refused to believe that.
Ms Thunberg set out the scale of the challenge in cutting emissions to keep temperature rises to 1.5C, beyond which scientists have warned the impacts of climate change become much more severe — warning that, at current rates, the remaining budget for emissions would be used up in eight-and-a-half years.
The situation could not be solved by “business as usual” and some technological solutions, she warned.
“The eyes of all future generations are on you,” she said. “If you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you.
“Right now, right here is where we draw the line. The world is waking up, change is coming, whether you like it or not.”
Ms Thunberg, along with 15 other young people, filed a lawsuit against five of the world’s main carbon polluters — Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, and Turkey — alleging they are violating their rights as children.
UN secretary general Antonio Guterres, who convened the summit to urge increased action on tackling emissions, welcomed the young people who have been protesting over climate change.
The UN estimates there needs to be between a three-fold and fivefold increase in efforts to cut greenhouse gases, to prevent global temperatures rising more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
The climate action summit in New York aims to galvanise efforts by countries and businesses to close the gap between what is needed to curb global warming and current policies, which put the world on track to warm by over 3C.