She told reporters at the launch of a Unicef report earlier this week that claims made by the prime minister Boris Johnson that the UK is a ‘climate leader’ were a “lie”.
“There’s a lie that the UK is a climate leader and that they have reduced their emissions by 45% since 1990,” she said.
Thunberg pointed out that the statistics do not include the UK’s share of emissions from international aviation, shipping and imported goods.
“Of course, if you don’t include all emissions of course the statistics are going to look much nicer. I’m really hoping that we stop referring to the UK as a climate leader, because if you look at the reality that is simply not true. They are very good at creative carbon accounting, I must give them that, but it doesn’t mean much in practice,” she added.
In response, a government spokesperson told the i: “We are proud of the strides we are already making in tackling climate change, cutting emissions by 44% over the past three decades. This figure was published as part of our thoroughly transparent annual reporting, and was measured in line with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) standards for reporting emissions.
“We stand by our assertion that we are a world leader in the fight against climate change, and are absolutely committed to meeting our future climate commitments. We were the first major economy to legislate to end our contribution to climate change by 2050, and our Net Zero Strategy – to be published shortly – will set out our plans to do even more.”
The criticism comes in the wake of comments from Lord Deben, the chair of the Climate Change Committee, who said Johnson’s failure to set out a strategy on how the UK will reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 had left a space for climate sceptics to “attack and undermine” the government's 2050 net zero target.