A teenage activist has been lauded for her powerful speech at the White House summit on Thursday, where she told global leaders that the climate crisis was the results of actions of powerful people like them.
Xiye Bastida, a Mexican-born, 19-year-old student, was introduced by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the first day of the two-day online talks, where 40 leaders were in attendance.
Speaking via video-link, Ms Bastida said the global climate emergency was caused by the powerful in society who are “perpetuating and upholding the harmful systems of colonialism, oppression, capitalism and market-oriented brainwashed solutions”.
Ms Bastida was born in San Pedro Tultepec, outside of Mexico City, and belongs to the Otomi-Toltec nation. She has advocated to keep Indigenous peoples in a central role in tackling the climate crisis.
Existing economic and political structures “rely on the existence of sacrifice zones” that “target the global South and Black and brown communities to the global North”, she said on Thursday.
The teen said that leaders must go beyond speeches on the climate crisis, and come to terms with the fact that “the era of fossil fuels is over”, calling for an end to fossil fuel subsidies and a swift transition to renewable energy sources.
The activist was praised for her bold remarks. Mr Blinken later said: “Xiye is an inspiration to us all as we work together to leave a better planet for the generations that will follow us.”
At the end of the summit’s first day, White House climate envoy John Kerry told the audience: “I hope you’ve been encouraged and inspired, even, as we know, as Xiye said in her vibrant comments of frustration with we adults – alleged adults, we need to get the job done.”
Environmentalist and leader of climate group 350.org, Bill McKibben, tweeted: “Might be a good idea to put @xiyebastida in charge of a continent or two. She was laying down serious truth.”
Around the same time as Ms Bastida spoke on Thursday, Swedish activist Ms Thunberg addressed the US Congress at a separate event, calling on politicians to apply logic to the crisis.
“All I can do is to urge you to listen to and act on the science, and to use your common sense,” Ms Thunberg said in a virtual speech to the House Oversight Committee.
The young activist demanded more action on the crisis and blasted the US government for continuing to subsidize fossil fuels.
“I’m not even going to explain why we need to make real drastic changes and dramatically lower our emissions in line with available science,” Ms Thunberg said. “It is the year 2021. The fact that 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.”
Wires contributed to this report