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'Our future is being taken away from us': Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg

Climate activist Greta Thunberg holds a placard reading "School strike for the climate" outside Sweden's parliament in Stockholm, on May 17, 2019. (Mainichi/Kosuke Hatta)

STOCKHOLM -- Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who with her own school strike helped launch student walkouts around the world to call for action to combat climate change, is undoubtedly one of the most prominent voices in the climate movement today.

"This is a global problem and we all have a responsibility to do something. As young people, our future is being taking away from us and I think we should get angry, and transform that anger into action," she told the Mainichi Shimbun during a recent interview here. She also suggested that she would keep up her activism until nations began implementing policies for meeting their commitments under the Paris Agreement to fight climate change.

A self-described "invisible girl" before making her mark on the global climate movement, Thunberg only began her school walkout and single-person protest in front of the Swedish parliament in August last year. That planted the seeds for the #FridaysForFuture student strike movement, in which school children around the globe skip class once a week to demand climate action. This culminated in a March 15, 2019 walkout with more than 1.5 million strikers worldwide. Another is planned for May 24.

Last year, she also made a presentation at TEDxStockholm and gave a speech at the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poland, making sharp points about the responsibility of adult generations for the current climate crisis. Now a symbol of the worldwide fight against carbon emissions and global warming, Thunberg has also met French President Emmanuel Macron and Pope Francis, and has even been nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize. In other words, she has become impossible for politicians to ignore.

Asked about Japan's policy of building more coal-fired power stations in direct opposition to the global trend to abandon fossil fuels, Thunberg commented, "I wouldn't have expected anything better because it's just like everywhere else. No one is doing basically anything." She added that many world leaders claim, "'We are going to do everything we can and we're going to be the leading country (on climate policy).' They say one thing and then do another complete opposite thing. That is very dangerous because it's very misleading."

A number of European Union countries have heeded the voices of the young protesters, and proposed boosting the climate action budget of the union. Thunberg welcomes the moves, but points out that emissions are still not dropping.

She stressed that the student movement was only one part of efforts to combat the climate crisis. "The most important thing you can do right now is to read about the climate crisis and try to understand what it actually means, because then you understand what you can do yourself," Thunberg said.

(Japanese original by Kosuke Hatta, Brussels Bureau)

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