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UPDATE 3-Activist Thunberg warns U.N. climate summit that leaders cannot hide

Reuters | Madrid | Updated: 07-12-2019 01:44 IST | Created: 07-12-2019 00:50 IST
UPDATE 3-Activist Thunberg warns U.N. climate summit that leaders cannot hide
Image Credit: Twitter(@UNFCCC)

Teen activist Greta Thunberg took her call for bold action to tackle climate change to a U.N. summit in Spain on Friday, warning world leaders that a growing youth-led protest movement meant they could no longer hide. Accorded rock-star status by young environmental activists, the 16-year-old had crossed the Atlantic by boat to reach the climate talks in Madrid in time to join one of the Friday afternoon rallies she has inspired around the world.

"People are suffering and dying from the climate and ecological emergency today and we cannot wait any longer," Thunberg told an event at a cultural center, where supporters chanted "We love you, Greta." The fervor among supporters and the media scrum that greeted her arrival underscored how an upsurge in climate activism has pushed the crisis up the political agenda since Thunberg began solitary strikes outside Sweden's parliament last summer.

"She transmits energy to other young people and the young people transmit it to other generations like mine," said Sara Pereira, 68, who held a placard saying "Stop Eco-chaos" as Thunberg and other marchers passed. Growing public concern over increasingly intense wildfires, cyclones, droughts, and floods has swelled the ranks of climate protesters, who have poured into the streets in their millions this year.

Thunberg said she and her fellow activists would do "everything we can" to make sure that world leaders "cannot just hide away anymore." "We are really gaining momentum, we are getting bigger and bigger and our voices are being heard more and more, but of course that does not translate into political action," Thunberg said of the protest movement.

Unwilling to fly because of the damage aviation emissions do to the climate, Thunberg had sailed across the Atlantic to attend a U.N. summit in September, before dashing back to Europe by catamaran in time for the latest round of talks. She made the last leg of her trip to Madrid by overnight train from the port of Lisbon, then in a red electric car.

The annual summit opened on Monday with a call from U.N. chief Antonio Guterres not to be the "generation ... that fiddled while the planet burned". By this meeting's close on Dec. 13, negotiators hope to resolve remaining disagreements on how to implement an accord struck in Paris in 2015 to avert catastrophic global warming.


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