Davos 2023: Greta Thunberg says energy industry throwing people ‘under the bus’

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By Maha El Dahan

DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan 19 (Reuters) – Climate activist Greta Thunberg said on Thursday that the global energy industry would go as far as it could without public pressure, adding that the sector would continue to invest in fossil fuels and “throw people under the bus for their gain”.

During a round-table discussion between climate campaigners and International Energy Agency (IEA) head Fatih Birol in Davos, Thunberg and other activists said they had presented a “cease and desist” letter to chief executives calling on them to stop opening new oil, gas and coal extraction sites.

The energy industry has been accused by activists of hijacking the climate change debate at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in the Swiss ski resort of Davos.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg of Sweden arrives to a press conference on the set of CNBC, on the sideline of the 53rd annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, WEF, in Davos, Switzerland, 19 January 2023. The meeting brings together entrepreneurs, scientists, corporate and political leaders in Davos under the topic ‘Cooperation in a Fragmented World’ from 16 to 20 January. EPA-EFE/GIAN EHRENZELLER

The oil and gas industry has said that it needs to be part of the energy transition as fossil fuels will continue to play a major role in the world’s energy mix as countries shift to low carbon economies.

Thunberg sat down with activists Helena Gualinga from Ecuador, Vanessa Nakate from Uganda and Luisa Neubauer from Germany next to discuss the issues with Birol.

They not only called out energy companies, but the financial institutions that were financing investments in fossil fuels.

Birol thanked the activists for meeting him, but insisted that the transition to a low-carbon economy had to include a mix, especially in the face of global energy security concerns.

The IEA chief said there was no reason to justify investments in new oil fields because of the energy crisis.

In 2019, the then 16-year-old Thunberg participated in the WEF meeting, famously telling leaders that “our house is on fire”. She returned to Davos the following year.

But she refused to participate as an official delegate this year as the conference returned to its usual January slot after a pandemic hiatus.

Asked why she did not want to advocate for change from the inside, Thunberg said there were already activists doing that.

“I think it should be people on the frontlines and not privileged people like me,” she said. “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.”

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