Teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg said she hoped Friday’s massive worldwide climate strikes would mark a turning point in persuading leaders to take decisive action on global warming.
The 16-year-old described the numbers of people who took to the streets as “unbelievable” — from Asia-Pacific to Europe and Africa, culminating in New York where a million students were permitted to skip school. Demonstrations took place in an estimated 185 countries.
“You see the pictures of all these people. You can’t believe what you are seeing,” she said during an interview, as thousands of protesters started marching in the US financial capital.
“This is not just because of me,” said the Swede, who has spurred teenagers and students around the world, mainly Europe, to strike from school every Friday under the rallying cry: “Fridays for future.”
“This is because thousands of local organizers who have spent I don’t know how many hours,” Thunberg said. “They worked very hard. I’m eternally grateful for what they are doing.”
“I hope this will be another social tipping point that we show how many people are engaged, how many people are putting pressure on leaders, especially before this UN Climate Action Summit,” she added, referring to tomorrow’s carbon emissions meeting.
Thousands gathered in Manhattan’s Foley Square at midday to rally the 1.6km distance to Battery Park on the tip of the island.
New York authorities gave their blessing to the 1 million children in more than 1,700 schools in the metropolis to miss school for the event.
Children carried placards that read “There Is No Planet B” and “Make The Earth Great Again,” a twist on US President Donald Trump’s rallying cry of “Make America Great Again.”
Thunberg is due to attend a summit on zero emissions at the UN headquarters in New York tomorrow and said she hoped the size of the protests would spur world leaders into action.
“It’s a great opportunity when they are gathered here,” Thunberg told reporters at New York City Hall, before joining the march, adding that some leaders “seem more determined than others.”
“They need to take their responsibility and do this and that’s what we are going to try and push for... Now we have proven what we can do, now they have to prove what they can [do],” she added.
Thunberg addressed the US Congress this week and met with former US president Barack Obama.
She said meeting Trump, a climate change skeptic who is not taking part in the summit, is not a priority for her.
“I don’t see why he would want to meet a teenager, a climate activist ... when he does not listen to science,” she said.
Additional reporting, staff writer
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