Story at a glance
- Greta Thunberg headlines panel discussion featuring activists Salvador Gómez-Colón, Autumn Peltier and Natasha Mwansa.
- Moderated by TIME’s CEO, the four youth leaders talked about climate change and their communities.
- The panelists agreed that global leaders need to take greater action against climate change.
Teenagers took the reins at The World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this year. At a TIME panel headlined by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, the activists spoke about the power of youth-led sustainability efforts and the increasing need for the adults in leadership to take action against fossil fuel emissions.
Thunberg was joined by Salvador Gómez-Colón, 16, Autumn Peltier, 16, and Natasha Mwansa, 18, at the TIME’s “Forging a Sustainable Path Towards a Common Future” event.
The four young panelists highlighted sustainability issues their own communities face, and — more broadly — the need for global elites at Davos to mitigate the damages of climate change.
Peltier, the chief water commissioner and member of the Eagle Clan Anishinaabekwe, advocates for improving clean water access to indigenous communities. As a young leader, she has seen her share of awards, and is quick to tell the Davos audience she’d still rather have help.
“I don’t want your awards. If you’re going to award me, award me with helping me find solutions and award me with helping me make change,” Peltier said at the panel.
Similarly, Mwansa, a journalist and activist, reiterated Thunberg’s calls for youth collaboration with established leaders and explained that the younger generation is not content to stand by the sidelines.
“The older generation has a lot of experience, but we have ideas, we have energy and we have solutions for the ‘now’ problems and the ones that are coming up,” she explained while seated next to Gómez-Colón, who also noted that the younger generation is “stepping up” when global leaders are not taking significant action.
“We’re [youth climate activists] not waiting five, 10, 20 years to take the action we want to see,” Gómez-Colón said. “We’re not the future of the world, we’re the present. We’re acting now, we’re not waiting any longer.”
Gómez-Colón is from Puerto Rico, which was hit by repeated earthquakes and tremors in recent months.
Thunberg stressed that climate change threatens not only the environment but our economic well-being — everything from coastal tourism to agricultural-dependent communities, according to a new report by The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
She also emphasized that the data is outside of party politics, and that "nothing has been done, since the global emissions of CO2 have not reduced" since her 2018 school strikes.
“In general, the science and the voice of the young people is not at the center of the conversation, and it needs to be,” Thunberg said, “Because this is about us and our future, and future generations, and of course those who are already being affected today.”