Teen activist brings climate action campaign to France

Teen activist brings climate action campaign to France

16-year-old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg and Anuna De Wever, a Belgian climate student activist, take part in a protest claiming for urgent measures to combat climate change, in Paris, France, February 22, 2019. (REUTERS)

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg brought her class-boycott campaign to Paris on Friday, hoping to encourage French students to hit the streets with demands for more ambitious efforts to combat global warming.

The Friday protests that the 16-year-old Swede launched in August have gained little traction so far in France, where the landmark COP21 international accord on cutting emissions was signed in 2015.

After calling on the EU in Brussels on Thursday to move more aggressively on greenhouse gas cuts, the young Swede will hold a press conference in Paris at 1100 GMT.

She will then participate in a march in central Paris, one of dozens planned in cities across Europe as part of her Fridays For Future movement.

But outside Paris, only two other class-cutting marches have been called, at Beauvais just north of Paris, and in the southwestern city of Dax.

Last Friday, only around 200 students protested outside the environment ministry in Paris.

"I don't know why young people mobilise massively in some countries and not others," Thunberg said in an interview published Friday by the Parisien daily.

"France, the country of COP21, needs to do what it says it will," she added.

Under the 2015 Paris deal to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, the 28-nation EU has pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030, compared to 1990.

But Thunberg told an EU conference Thursday that the goal was woefully inadequate, saying an 80 percent reduction was necessary to meet the 2030 goal.

"If you think we should be in school instead, we suggest that you take our place in the streets, striking from your work," she said.

Thunberg's determined campaign to hold adults accountable for looming climate change consequences has gained global resonance since she began skipping class for weekly Friday protests in Stockholm six months ago.

She made global headlines in December with her strong-willed speech at a UN climate meeting in Poland, and last month took her message to the top corporate echelons at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

In the last six months, tens of thousands of high school students -- in Sydney, Brussels, Berlin, The Hague, London and other cities -- have followed her lead.

On Thursday she joined around 7,500 Belgian student activists who staged a march in Brussels, their seventh such protest.

"I think it is very good that the young protest in the streets of Europe to defend the environment," European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said at the conference Thursday, urging adults to join them.

But despite her enthusiastic reception, Thunberg said Thursday that she had received little indication that EU leaders were ready to heed her call for faster action.

"I didn't hear any concrete promise by political leaders and officials; they only say that they are going to try their best," she said.