Young Climate Activists at Davos Want Fossil Fuel Execs to ‘Cease and Desist’ New Oil, Gas or Coal Extraction
An international quartet of prominent young climate activists attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this week with a letter calling on fossil fuel CEOS to “cease and desist” any new oil, gas or coal developments.
The letter was penned by Greta Thunberg of Sweden, Helena Gualinga of Ecuador, Vanessa Nakate of Uganda and Luisa Neubauer of Germany and has so far been signed by nearly 950,000 people.
“This Cease and Desist Notice is to demand that you immediately stop opening any new oil, gas, or coal extraction sites, and stop blocking the clean energy transition we all so urgently need,” the letter begins.
The four activists met Thursday with International Energy Agency (IEA) head Fatih Birol during a side event at the World Economic Forum, as Reuters reported. While Thunberg spoke at the forum as an official delegate in 2019 — urging attendees to “safeguard the future living conditions for humankind” — this year she opted not to attend in an official capacity and instead leave that role to other climate activists.
“I think it should be people on the frontlines and not privileged people like me,” she said, as Reuters reported. “I don’t think the changes we need are very likely to come from the inside. They are more likely to come from the bottom up.”
Thunberg’s words came two days after she was briefly detained while protesting the sacrifice of the German village of Lützerath to an expanding coal mine. In their letter, Thunberg and the other three activists also emphasized the importance of grassroots action.
“If you fail to act immediately, be advised that citizens around the world will consider taking any and all legal action to hold you accountable. And we will keep protesting in the streets in huge numbers,” they warned fossil fuel executives.
Thunberg also had harsh words for elites gathered at Davos.
“We are right now in Davos where basically the people who are mostly fueling the destruction of the planet, the people who are at the very core of the climate crisis, the people who are investing in fossil fuels etcetera, etcetera and yet somehow these are the people that we seem to rely on solving our problems,” Thunberg said, as The Independent reported.
Nakate, meanwhile, detailed the experiences of some of those people on the frontlines, speaking of children suffering from malnutrition in the midst of an ongoing drought in the Horn of Africa, as The Guardian reported.
People living in vulnerable regions are “clinging to their lives and just trying to make it for another day, to make it for another week, to make it for another hour, another minute,” she said, as AP News reported.
Gualinga warned that the world is “taking a really dangerous path.”
Biroh, for his part, thanked the activists for meeting with him, but expressed more hope for the future, pointing to the passage in the U.S. of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) as a boost for the development of renewable energy.
“We can have slight legitimate optimism,” he said, as Reuters reported. “Last year the amount of renewables coming to the market was record high,” he added.
Birol said that the energy transition would require the participation of a diverse group of stakeholders. However, the IEA calculated in 2021 that no new oil and gas projects should be developed past that year if world leaders wanted to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis. Birol also said that the current energy crisis does not justify investments in new oil fields. He also acknowledged the importance of speed in the energy transition, which is currently lagging behind necessity.
“[T]he problem is not being fast enough to reach our climate targets,” he said, as AP News reported.
The activists also reacted strongly to the appointment of Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, chief executive of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), to preside over COP28 in the UAE.
“Lobbyists have been influencing these conferences since forever, and this just puts a very clear face to it… it’s completely ridiculous,” Thunberg said, as CNBC reported.
Neubauer agreed it was “ridiculous,” while Gualinga said it suggested world leaders were not serious about addressing the climate crisis, as The Guardian reported.
“I just think it sends a message of where we’re headed right now, if we’re putting the heads of fossil fuel companies to lead climate negotiations,” she said.
In response, a COP28 spokesperson defended the UAE’s choice, noting that al-Jaber founded a renewable energy firm called Masdar in 2006.
“Dr. Sultan is an energy expert and founder of one of the world’s leading rewnewable energy companies, a senior business leader, a government minister and a climate diplomat with over 20 years of experience of taking climate action,” the spokesperson said, as The Guardian reported.
However, in November ADNOC’s board decided to expand oil production by five million barrels a day by 2027 instead of 2030.
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