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Greta Thunberg makes mincemeat of politicians in speech to Commission

19:03 21/02/2019
Teenage Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg was in Brussels today to march with fellow pupils and deliver a speech to the European Commission

The Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg was in Brussels today, where she marched with other teenagers and delivered a speech at the European Commission. The 16-year-old activist is world famous for her School Strike for the Climate movement and her direct and forthright speeches delivered at climate conferences.

It was Thunberg who inspired Antwerp secondary school pupils to begin organising regular Thursday marches through the streets of Brussels. At its peak, the Brussels march attracted 35,000 people, mostly students of all ages.

Thunberg joined 7,500 young people today for the march, which got off to a late start due to a media storm surrounded the young activist. At first, fellow protestors formed a ring around her to protect her from reporters and photographers, and later the police carried out the task.

This morning before the march, Thunberg addressed the press and the European Commission. “We are school striking because we have done our homework,” said Thunberg, flanked by local climate march activists, including pupils Anuna De Wever and Kyra Gantois.

“People always tell me that they are so hopeful that young people are going to save the world,” continued Thunberg. “But they are not. There is simply not enough time to wait for us to grow up and become the ones in charge. Because by the year 2020, we will need to have turned the emissions curve around steeply. That is next year.”

‘Do your homework’

Thunberg then headed straight into the fearless delivery that has made her famous. “We know that politicians don’t want to talk to us. Good. We don’t want to talk to them either.” Here, Thunberg had to pause for applause. “We want them to talk to the scientists instead. Because we are just repeating what they are saying and have been saying for decades.”

Thunberg went on to talk about the Paris agreement and the reports produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, saying that the pupils’ only demand was to follow their recommendations.

“We need to protect the biosphere, the air, the oceans, the soil, the forests,” Thunberg said. “This may sound very naïve, but if you have done your homework, then you know that we don’t have any other choice. We need to focus every inch of our being on climate change. Because if we fail to do so, then all our achievements and progress have been for nothing. All that will remain of our political leaders’ legacy will be the greatest failure of human history.”

She then pointed out the EU’s current proposal to cut CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030 was half what was needed to avoid the global temperature increasing more than 1.5% by that time. “The actions required are beyond manifestos or party politics. Once again, they sweep their mess under the carpet for our generation to clean up.”

Thunberg also touched on the statements made by detractors of the School Strike for the Climate. “If you think that we should be in school instead, then we suggest that you take our place in the streets.”

Juncker soundly criticised

Following Thunberg’s speech, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker delivered comments that Belgian scientists called “anecdotal” and “not to the point”.

“I find it a good thing that young people are taking to the streets of Europe to acknowledge the climate situation,” said Juncker. “Protection of the climate would be in good hands if the older generations would do what is expected of them. When I was 16 or 17 years old, I also protested, but on Saturdays and not during school hours.”

He went on to say that one-quarter of the EU’s budget would go to climate in the following budget period and that Europe “couldn’t do everything”. He then spoke of “Europe’s beautiful landscapes”, the need for uniform sewer systems and the importance of bees.

“He said almost nothing about the climate,” said Belgian climatologist Jean-Pascal van Ypersele. “The gap between his speech – if you can call it that – and Greta Thunberg’s is unbelievably wide.”

Van Ypersele went on to say that Juncker’s statements were a “sad spectacle” and that there is a “total detachment between the president of the European Commission and the concerns of the young climate protestors”.

Koen Stuyck of the World Wildlife Federation Belgium said that Juncker delivered a “misplaced address that perfectly illustrates what Greta Thunberg is saying with her forceful call to politicians”.

Greta Thunberg’s speech can be heard in its entirety on the VRT website

Photo: AFP/BELGA

Written by Lisa Bradshaw