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Davos 2023: Greta Thunberg accuses energy companies of throwing people 'under the bus'

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DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan 19 (Reuters) – Greta Thunberg urged the global energy industry and its financiers to end all investments in fossil fuels on Thursday at a high-level meeting in Davos with the head of the International Energy Agency ( AIE).

During a roundtable with Fatih Birol on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting, activists said they had submitted a “cease and desist” letter to CEOs calling for an end to new oil, gas and coal extraction.

“As long as they can get away with it, they’ll keep investing in fossil fuels, they’ll keep throwing people under the bus,” warned Thunberg.

The oil and gas industry, accused by activists of hijacking the climate change debate at the Swiss ski resort, has said it needs to be part of the energy transition as fossil fuels will continue to play an important role in the energy mix as the world shifts to a low-carbon economy.

Thunberg, who was detained by police in Germany earlier this week during a demonstration at a coal mine, joined activists Helena Gualinga from Ecuador, Vanessa Nakate from Uganda and Luisa Neubauer from Germany to discuss the approach of the big problems with Birol.

Birol, whose agency makes policy recommendations on energy, thanked activists for meeting with him but insisted the transition must include a mix of stakeholders, especially in the face of the global energy security crisis.

The IEA head, who on Thursday met some of the biggest names in the oil and gas industry in Davos, said there was no reason to justify investment in new oil fields because of the energy crisis, saying that when they if they became operational the climate crisis would be worse.

He also said he was less pessimistic than climate activists about the shift to clean energy.

“We can have legitimate mild optimism,” he said, adding: “Last year, the amount of renewables hitting the market was a record.”

But he conceded that the transition is not happening fast enough and warned that emerging and developing countries risk being left behind if advanced economies do not support the transition.

Young climate activist Greta Thunberg attends a discussion on “Treating the climate crisis like a crisis” with the head of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol (not pictured), on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos (WEF) in Davos , Switzerland, January 19, 2023. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann


The United Nations climate conference, held in Egypt last year, established a damages fund to compensate countries most affected by climate change.

Nakate, who held a lone protest outside Uganda’s parliament for several months in 2019, said the fund “is still an empty bucket with no money at all”.

“There is a need for real money for damages.”

In 2019, Thunberg, then 16, took part in the WEF’s main meeting, telling leaders that “our house is on fire”. She returned to Davos the following year.

But she declined to participate as an official delegate this year, as the event moved back to its regular January schedule.

Asked why she didn’t want to advocate for internal change, Thunberg said there were already activists doing that.

“I think it should be the people on the front lines and not privileged people like me,” she said. “I don’t think the changes we need will come from within. It’s more likely to come from the bottom up.”

Activists walked together through the snowy streets of Davos, where many of the shops were temporarily transformed into “pavilions” sponsored by companies or countries.

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Written by Leela de Kretser; Edited by Alexandre Smith

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