January 24, 2020 / 9:45 AM / a month ago

Young climate activist fears words not action at Davos

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Isabelle Axelsson is one of the youngest delegates at Davos, where the 19-year-old, dressed in Dr. Martens boots and dungarees, and her fellow climate activists are calling on the world leaders to do more to tackle climate change.

Swedish climate change activist Isabelle Axelsson attends a session at the 50th World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, January 21, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

“People are taking us more seriously than they were before,” Axelsson told Reuters this week in the flat she is sharing with fellow campaigners from Switzerland and Germany, adding: “I think it’s a lot of talk and not enough action.”

Axelsson is part of the Stockholm branch of “Fridays for Future” which includes founding member Greta Thunberg who has gone from solo school strikes to sparring on the international stage with U.S. President Donald Trump over climate policy.

“People have their eyes on us,” Axelsson said. “I don’t know how they evaluate what we say, hopefully they listen, but generally I do think they dismiss us because of our age.”

This year the annual meeting of business leaders at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos has put climate change centre stage, rolling out the red carpet for Thunberg and calling on firms to set net zero carbon goals.

She said she got involved in the movement in December 2018 and has since only missed one strike.

Her parents, hesitant at first, are now supportive and Axelsson says her grades have improved, allowing her to finish high school and start studying human geography at university.

“I got more energy from striking, I was channelling all the depressed and bad feelings I had because of the climate crisis into something.”

Although the focus on Axelsson and her fellow strikers makes climate change a talking point, she worries it is a distraction.

“There’s a little bit too much attention on us, and us as people, but we need the focus to be on the science.”

(This story corrects spelling of footwear in first paragraph)

Editing by Alexander Smith

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