Behind the schoolgirl climate warrior lies a shadowy cabal of lobbyists, investors and energy companies seeking to profit from a green bonanza
Whatever Greta or her parents know or think, her eco-mob increases the likelihood of legislation and investment that will make colossal profits for people like Global Challenge, We Don’t Have Time and Sustainable Energy Angels. For Sweden’s energy titans, saving the planet means government contracts to print the green stuff. Green energy lobbyists use populist scare tactics and a children’s crusade to bypass elected representatives, but their goal is technocracy not democracy, profit not redistribution. Greta, a child of woke capitalism, is being used to ease the transition to green corporatism.
Greta Thunberg is just an ordinary 16-year-old Swedish schoolgirl whose fiery visions have convinced the parliaments of Britain and Ireland to declare a “climate emergency”. Greta’s parents, actor Svante Thunberg and opera singer Malena Ernman, are just an ordinary pair of parent-managers who want to save the planet. Query their motives, and you risk being accused of “climate denial”, or of bullying a vulnerable child with Asperger’s. But the Greta phenomenon has also involved green lobbyists, PR hustlers, eco-academics, and a think-tank founded by a wealthy ex-minister in Sweden’s Social Democratic government with links to the country’s energy companies. These companies are preparing for the biggest bonanza of government contracts in history: the greening of the Western economies. Greta, whether she and her parents know it or not, is the face of their political strategy.
The family’s story is that Greta launched a one-girl “school strike” at the Swedish parliament on the morning of August 20, 2018. Ingmar Rentzhog, founder of the social media platform We Have No Time, happened to be passing. Inspired, Rentzhog posted Greta’s photograph on his personal Facebook page. By late afternoon, the newspaper Dagens Nyheter had Greta’s story and face on its website. The rest is viral.
But this isn’t the full story. In emails, media entrepeneur Rentzhog told me that he “met Greta for the first time” at the parliament, and that he “did not know Greta or Greta’s parents” before then. Yet in the same emails, Rentzhog admitted to meeting Greta’s mother Malena Ernman “3-4 months before everything started”—in early May 2018, when he and Malena had shared a stage at a conference called the Climate Parliament. Nor did Rentzhog stumble on Greta’s protest by accident. He now admits to having been informed “the week before” by “a mailing list from a climate activist” named Bo Thorén, leader of the Fossil Free Dalsland group.
Independent journalist Rebecca Weidmo Uvell has obtained an earlier email from Bo Thorén’s search for fresh green faces. In February 2018, Thorén invited a group of environmental activists, academics and politicians to plan “how we can involve and get help from young people to increase the pace of the transition to a sustainable society”. In May, after Greta won second prize in an environmental op-ed writing competition run by the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, Thorén approached all the competition winners with a plan for a “school strike”, modelled on the student walk-outs after the shootings at Parkland, Florida. “But no one was interested,” Greta’s mother claims, “so Greta decided to do it for herself.”
Fortunately, Greta’s decision coincided with the publication of Scenes from the Heart, Svante and Malena’s memoir of how saving the planet had saved their family. Unfortunately, Malena omitted to tell her publisher that Ingmar Rentzhog had commandeered Greta’s stunt.
“We had a problem,” says Malena’s editor, Jonas Axelsson. “Journalists asked if it was promotion for the book. It wasn’t at all. It was a nightmare.”
It was, however, a dream for Ingmar Rentzhog. When Rentzhog combined Thorén’s plan and Malena Ernman’s musical fame with Greta’s uncanny charisma and We Have No Time’s mailing list, he turned Greta into a viral celebrity.
“I have not invented Greta,” Rentzhog insists, “but I helped to spread her action to an international audience.”
Trained by Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, Rentzhog set up We Don’t Have Time in late 2017 to “hold leaders and companies accountable for climate change” by leveraging “the power of social media”. Rentzhog and his CEO David Olsson have backgrounds in finance, not environmental activism, Rentzhog as the founder of Laika, an investment relations company, and Olsson with Svenska Bostadsfonden, one of Sweden’s biggest real estate funds, whose board Rentzhog joined in June 2017. We Don’t Have Time’s investors included Gustav Stenbeck, whose family control Kinnevik, one of Sweden’s largest investment corporations.
In May 2018, Rentzhog and Olsson of We Don’t Have Time became chairman and board member of a think-tank called Global Utmaning (Global Challenge). Its founder, Kristina Persson, is an heir to an industrial fortune. She is a career trade unionist and a Social Democrat politician going back to the party’s golden age under Olof Palme. She is also an ex-deputy governor of Sweden’s central bank and a New Ager who has discussed her reincarnations and communication with the dead. Between 2014 and 2016, Persson served as “Minister for the Future” in the Social Democratic government of Stefan Lofven.
Petter Skogar, president of Sweden’s biggest employer’s association, is on Global Challenge’s ten-person board. So is Johan Lindholm, chairman of the Union of Construction Workers and member of the Social Democrats’ executive board. So is Anders Wijkman, president of the Club of Rome, chair of the Environmental Objectives Council, and a recipient in February 2018 of Bo Thorén’s call for youth mobilisation. So is Catherina Nystedt Ringborg, former CEO of Swedish Water, advisor at the International Energy Agency, and former vice-president at Swedish-Swiss energy giant ABB.