Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 7 December 2019

Climate activist Greta Thunberg to set sail from US for climate summit in Spain

Her boat has little-to-no carbon footprint, is fitted with solar panels and a hydro-generator for power

Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, sits on a catamaran docked in Hampton, Va., on Tuesday, November 12, 2019. AP
Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, sits on a catamaran docked in Hampton, Va., on Tuesday, November 12, 2019. AP

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, 16, will leave North America and begin her return trip across the Atlantic on Wednesday aboard a 15-metre catamaran whose passengers include an 11-month-old baby.

The boat has little-to-no carbon footprint, is fitted with solar panels and has a hydro-generator for power. It also has a toilet, unlike the boat on which the teenager sailed from the United Kingdom to New York in August. That one only had a bucket.

"There are countless people around the world who don't have access to a toilet," she said about the upgrade. "It's not that important. But it's nice to have."

Greta spoke on Tuesday from the catamaran, named La Vagabonde, as it was docked in Hampton, Virginia, near the Chesapeake Bay's mouth. She is hitching a ride to Spain in the hope of attending a United Nations climate meeting in Madrid in early December.

The owners of the boat are Riley Whitelum and Elayna Carausu, an Australian couple who have an 11-month-old son, Lenny. The family, which has a large online following, responded to Greta's call on social media for a carbon-free ride to Europe. An expert sailor, Nikki Henderson, is also coming along.

The trip could take two to four weeks, and November is considered off season for sailing across the Atlantic. The temperature had dipped on Tuesday as sleet turned into light snow.

But Greta, who refuses to fly because of the carbon price of plane travel, did not seem bothered.

"I'm looking forward to it, just to be able to get away and recap everything and to just be disconnected," she said.

Greta just finished a nearly three-month trip through North America, where she gave an impassioned speech before the UN and took part in climate strike rallies and protests from California to Colorado to North Carolina.

She has become a symbol of a growing movement of young climate activists after leading weekly school strikes in Sweden that inspired similar actions in about 100 cities worldwide.

She has also drawn criticism from conservative commentators in the US as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin. But she brushed off the criticism during her round of back-to-back interviews in the catamaran on Tuesday, saying that yes, she is too young to be doing this.

"It should be the adults who take that responsibility," Greta said. "But it feels like the adults and the people in power today are not."

When she looks back on her time in the US and Canada, Greta said the things that stick out the most include a glacier in Canada's Jasper National Park that is destined to disappear "no matter what we do".

A visit to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, where there have been protests over a pipeline, also left an impact.

"I was actually quite surprised to see how bad the indigenous people have been treated," she said. "They are the ones who are being impacted often the most and first by the climate and ecological crisis. And they are also the ones who are at the front line trying to fight it."

She also was surprised at how much she was recognised.

"There are always people who come up to me and ask for selfies and so on," she said. "So, that really gives you an idea of how big the climate movement has reached."

Updated: November 13, 2019 05:15 PM

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