Just over a year ago, in August 2018, activist Greta Thunberg sat alone during her first Friday climate strike outside Swedish parliament.
But on Friday, she was joined by a crowd of more than 60,000 people, marching through the streets of New York. Around the world, there were many more in her orbit, demanding climate action.
“Yesterday, millions of people across the globe marched and demanded real climate action — especially young people,” Thunberg said Saturday at the United Nations in New York, where hundreds of young people from nations around the world were gathering at the first UN Youth Climate Summit. “We showed that we are united, and that we young people are unstoppable.”
Thunberg kept her remarks brief, letting young climate activists from Kenya, Fiji, and Argentina take the mic, in a morning listening session with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
The youth climate session comes just two days before the grown-ups come to the UN on Monday for the General Assembly’s Climate Change Summit, where Thunberg is expected to deliver lengthier remarks.
Komal Karishma Kumar, a young climate activist from Fiji who was on stage with Thunberg Saturday, called on world leaders “to not doubt the science” and asked “some” to “come back to the Paris agreement,” which calls for European countries to cut their emissions 40% by 2030 (or at least try to). US President Donald Trump pulled his country out of the agreement in 2017.
“Remember, we will hold you accountable,” Kumar said. “And if you do not, remember, we will mobilize to vote you out.”
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who was there as a “keynote listener” told the speakers at the end of their session “I encourage you to hold my generation accountable.”
“I believe that what the youth is doing today, what grassroots movements are doing today, is absolutely essential for this to happen,” he said. “I encourage you to go on.”