Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 23 August 2019

Teen activist Greta Thunberg makes waves in UK visit

Sixteen year old in tit-for-tat snub of British prime minister

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg spoke at the House of Commons in Westminster. PA/AP
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg spoke at the House of Commons in Westminster. PA/AP

Swedish student activist Greta Thunberg met with British politicians on Tuesday to make the case for strong, concerted policy change to combat global warming.

Ms Thunberg, 16, met with politicians and activists to talk about her ideas, meeting Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable in the Houses of Parliament.

In photographs published from the meeting, at which Amnesty International, Greenpeace and other organisations were present , a chair was left empty for Prime Minister Theresa May, who did not attend.

The student lambasted British lawmakers in her speech for not taking climate issues seriously enough.

"We probably don’t even have a future any more," she said, "because that future was sold so that a small number of people could make unimaginable amounts of money. It was stolen from us every time you said that the sky was the limit, and that you only live once."

In August 2018 Ms Thunberg staged a sit in outside the Swedish parliament, with nothing but a sign reading ‘skolstrejk för klimatet’ (school strike for climate). Her actions inspired a global movement of student action on climate change, including an estimated 1.4m school children refusing to attend school in March.

Although outspoken on climate issues, she does not see herself as the leader of the movement.

“I am not the leader of this movement, I am part of this movement. Everyone is equally important,” she told the audience at an event in London on Monday.

Speaking on BBC’s Radio 4, Ms Thunberg urged politicians to “listen to the science, listen to the scientists. Invite them to talk.”

"I am just speaking on behalf of them, I'm trying to say what they've been saying for decades," she said.

Ms Thunberg’s visit coincides with the crescendo of a week of protest in the British capital by environmental activist group Extinction Rebellion, which has resulted in over 1000 arrests.

The largely peaceful protest shut down thoroughfares and bridges across the UK and Europe last week and continues to cause disruption in the name of driving change. Over the long Easter holiday weekend, Mr Thurnberg visited the group’s camp in London’s Marble Arch.

“I support Extinction Rebellion. What they are doing is good. Civil disobedience is important to show this is an emergency,” she said at Monday’s event.

“We need to do everything we can to put pressure on the people in power.”

Ms Thunberg met leaders of the UK political parties on Tuesday. A chair was reserved for Theresa May. PA/AP
Ms Thunberg met leaders of the UK political parties on Tuesday. A chair was reserved for Theresa May. PA/AP

Ms Thunberg is a believer in big ideas and feels the UK and other nations are ignoring their responsibility to take care of the planet for future generations.

"You don’t listen to the science because you are only interested in solutions that will enable you to carry on like before. Like now. And those answers don’t exist any more, because you did not act in time," she chided MPs on Tuesday.

"Avoiding climate breakdown will require cathedral thinking. We must lay the foundation while we may not know exactly how to build the ceiling...I’m sure that the moment we start behaving as if we were in an emergency, we can avoid climate and ecological catastrophe. Humans are very adaptable: we can still fix this."

Updated: April 23, 2019 06:40 PM

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