WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg warned U.S. lawmakers Thursday that history will hold them accountable for climate catastrophes if they do not stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry before it is too late.
Thunberg, 18, whose activism has inspired a global movement, testified virtually to a House of Representatives panel on the day President Joe Biden kicked off a virtual two-day Earth Day summit pledging to slash U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030.
“The simple fact, and uncomfortable fact, is that if we are to live up to our promises and commitments in Paris, we have to end fossil fuel subsidies … now,” Thunberg said, referring to the international 2016 Paris Climate Change Agreement. The United States rejoined the Paris agreement in February, after former President Donald Trump pulled out.
Thunberg, whose activism began at age 15 when she started skipping school on Fridays to protest outside the Swedish parliament for climate change, admitted she was pessimistic.
“I don’t believe for a second that you will actually do this,” she lectured the lawmakers of the House Oversight Committee’s environmental subcommittee.
“You still have time to do the right thing and to save your legacies, but that window of time is not going to last for long,” Thunberg said. “We the young people are the ones who are going to write about you in the history books …So my advice for you is to choose wisely.”
The chairman of the subcommittee, Representative Ro Khanna, is pressuring his fellow Democrat Biden to end fossil fuel subsidies as part of a plan to rebuild U.S. infrastructure.
“We appreciate that President Biden ran on ending fossil fuel subsidies. But the details matter,” Representative Ro Khanna said in a statement released prior to the hearing. “Exactly four months into this administration, progressives are looking for tangible and specific commitments from the administration to follow through on its own platform.”
Thunberg, who was Time magazine’s person of the year in 2019 for her work on climate change, has denounced the “madness” of government subsidies for fossil fuel use. She says pledges by various countries to halve greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade are insufficient.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and David Gregorio)