Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg and the millions of school students she inspired to skip school to protest for climate action won a global human rights award yesterday.
A growing movement of young protesters demanding action on climate change — inspired by 16-year-old Thunberg, who started a weekly vigil outside Sweden’s legislature last year — has spread to countries like Brazil, Uganda and Australia.
Thunberg and her “Fridays for Future” global movement won Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award, joining the likes of former South African president Nelson Mandela and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai.
“You have to fight for what you think is right. I think all those who are part of this movement are doing that,” Thunberg said in a statement.
“The blatant injustice we all need to fight against is that people in the global south are the ones who are and will be most affected by climate change, while they are the least responsible for causing it,” she said.
The viral school strike phenomenon has flipped traditional patterns of authority, handing leadership roles to teenagers who feel aghast at the mismatch between calls for transformative action from climate scientists and rising carbon emissions.
Last year, global carbon emissions hit a new record high, despite a warning in a UN report in October that output of the gases would have to be slashed over the next 12 years to stabilize the climate.
“We are humbled and inspired by the determination with which youth activists across the world are challenging us all to confront the realities of the climate crisis,” Amnesty International secretary-general Kumi Naidoo said.
“They remind us that we are more powerful than we know and that we all have a role to play in protecting human rights against climate catastrophe,” Naidoo added.
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