Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg demanded on Thursday that U.S. lawmakers end fossil fuel subsidies before it is too late, and she warned politicians that history will hold them accountable for climate catastrophes.
Speaking as world leaders gathered at a climate summit hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden, 18-year-old Thunberg warned that powerful interests and lawmakers were contributing to the "destruction" of living conditions around the globe.
"How long do you honestly believe people in power like you will get away with it?" the Swedish activist said via videolink in a biting rebuke to a U.S. House panel.
"How long do you think you can continue ignoring the climate crisis, the global aspect of equity and historic emissions without being held accountable?" she asked.
"You get away with it now, but sooner or later people are going to realize what you have been doing all this time."
Thunberg, the world's foremost young climate activist, has addressed members of the U.S. Congress before, at a hearing in 2019.
But Thursday's remarks coincided with Biden's Earth Day Climate Summit, in which he committed to aggressive new goals for reducing emissions.
As leaders like Chinese President Xi Jinping, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed commitments to reduce emissions, Thunberg said global action was still far short of where it should be.
"It is the year 2021. The fact we are still having this discussion and even more that we are still subsidizing fossil fuels directly or indirectly using taxpayer money is a disgrace," she said.
"It is proof that we have not understood the climate emergency at all."
She also directly accused the current generation of politicians of "giving up without even trying. Well, I'm here to tell you that unlike you, my generation will not give up without a fight."
Thunberg in particular criticized the continued use of fossil fuel subsidies, which in the United States have been on the books for over 100 years, even though Washington committed in 2009 to bringing them to an end.
Congressman Ro Khanna, who chairs the environmental subcommittee to which Thunberg testified, said he and other House Democrats support ending the billions of dollars in subsidies in the next infrastructure package under consideration in Congress.
"What it's going to do is stop having taxpaying subsidies go to pay lobbyists and rich executives," he said.
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