The Swedish 18-year-old, whose activism inspired a global movement, testified virtually to a US House of Representatives panel on the day Joe Biden began a virtual two-day Earth Day summit pledging to slash greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. Ms Thunberg, 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 warned current pledges by different countries to half their greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade are still not enough.
She said: “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.
“The fact that we are still having this discussion, and even more that we are still subsidising fossil fuels, directly or indirectly, using taxpayer money is a disgrace.”
Ms Thunberg, whose activism began at age 15 when she started skipping school on Fridays to protest outside the Swedish parliament for climate change, said she was pessimistic.
She said: “I don’t believe for a second that you will actually do this.
“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.
“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.”
READ MORE: EU mocked over 2050 green target as Germany falters after UK pledge
Environmental subcommittee chairman Ro Khanna is pressuring Mr Biden to keep a campaign promise to end fossil fuel subsidies such as tax breaks and regulatory loopholes.
Mr Khanna asked Ms Thunberg if it would be a “gut punch” to environmentalists if fossil fuel subsidies were not eliminated in Mr Biden’s current $2.3billion plan to overhaul US infrastructure.
Ms Thunberg replied: “Yes, pretty much.”
But Frank Macchiarola, senior vice president for policy at the American Petroleum Institute, argued for keeping tax policies that promote energy investment in the US.
He said the US was already the global leader in carbon dioxide emissions reductions in recent years.
She told him: “I want people to step out of their comfort zones, and not just see the climate crisis as a distant threat, but rather as something that is impacting people already today.”
Mr Biden has called for replacing fossil fuel subsidies with incentives for clean energy production as part of his infrastructure plan, but the plan has not specified which tax breaks for fossil fuel companies would be targeted.
Mr Khanna listed some tax breaks he wants to be repealed, including one called intangible drilling costs, which allows producers to deduct most costs from drilling new wells.