'We would love some action,' Greta Thunberg says at climate summit in Madrid

Greta Thunberg arrived in the Spanish capital on Friday to join thousands of other young people in a march to demand world leaders take real action against climate change.

Spanish capital is hosting 2-week, UN-sponsored talks on climate change

Activist Greta Thunberg again calls for urgent action on climate change

3 years ago
Duration 1:56
At a climate summit in Madrid, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg again appealed for awareness, and immediate action on climate change.

The voices of climate strikers are being heard, but politicians are still not taking action, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg said Friday at a summit in Madrid.

"We are getting bigger and bigger, and our voices are being heard more and more, but of course that does not translate into political action," Thunberg told a news conference during the United Nations-sponsored COP25 climate gathering.

Thunberg, who has sparked a global youth-led protest movement, said asking children to skip school to protest inaction by governments on climate change was "not a sustainable solution."

"We don't want to continue. We would love some action from people in power," she said. "People are suffering and dying from the climate and ecological emergency today and we cannot wait any longer."

Thunberg said she hopes the two-week annual round of climate negotiations, which opened in Madrid on Monday, would lead to "concrete action" and world leaders would grasp the urgency of the climate crisis.

"Of course there is no victory, because the only thing we want to see is real action," Thunberg said. "So we have achieved a lot, but if you look at it from a certain point of view, we have achieved nothing."

The Swedish teen arrived in Madrid on Friday to a swarm of media cameras and microphones at the Spanish capital's northern train station.

In an ironic tweet, Thunberg said she had "successfully managed to sneak into Madrid.

"I don't think anyone saw me...," she said. "Anyway it's great to be in Spain!"

Climate activist Greta Thunberg, from Sweden, attends a news conference before a protest march in Madrid on Friday. (Sergio Perez/Reuters)

The two-week UN summit is aimed at streamlining the rules on global carbon markets and agreeing on how poor countries should be compensated for destruction largely caused by emissions from rich nations.

The talks came as evidence mounts about disasters that could ensue from further global warming, including a study commissioned by 14 seafaring nations and published Friday predicting unchecked climate change could devastate fishery industries and coral reef tourism.

Thunberg paid a surprise visit to the venue of the talks and joined a group of some 40 teens staging a sit-in there to demand real action against climate change.

Holding hands, the teens sang a version of John Lennon's Power to the People and displayed banners with the logo of Fridays for Future, the global climate movement inspired by Thunberg.

In the presence of dozens of media cameras and curious summit participants, the protesters exchanged chants: "What do you want?" "Climate Justice" "When do you want it?" "Now."

Thunberg did not appear unsettled by the commotion surrounding her.

"It's absurd. I laugh at it. I do not understand why it has become like this," the 16-year-old was quoted as saying by Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, whose reporter rode with them in an electric car in Madrid.

"I don't like being at the centre of the focus all the time, but this is a good thing," she told Aftonbladet. "As soon as the media writes about me, they also have to write about the climate crisis. If this is a way to write about the climate crisis, then I guess it is good."

While Thunberg seemed bemused by the attention, her father Svante was startled, saying it was "total madness."

"I have never seen anything like this," he told Aftonbladet.

The study commissioned by seafaring nations says climate change could cause hundreds of billions of dollars in losses by 2050, adding limiting global warming would lessen the economic impact for coastal countries, but they also need to adapt to ocean changes.

Thunberg meets with participants at the UN-sponsored COP25 summit on Friday. (Juan Medina/Reuters)

The authors said fish will migrate to cooler waters as oceans heat up and become more acidic, jeopardizing some fishing communities. While regions near the equator will suffer fish stock declines, the report forecasts increases in Arctic and Antarctic Oceans

Demands for greater action by non-governmental organizations and a whole new generation of environment-minded activists were expected to take the spotlight with the presence of Thunberg in Madrid.

Past appearances have won her plaudits from some leaders — and criticism from others who've taken offence at the angry tone of her speeches.

Activist cross Atlantic aboard catamaran

An advocate for carbon-free transportation, Thunberg travelled by train overnight from the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, where she arrived earlier this week after sailing across the Atlantic Ocean from the United States by catamaran.

That became necessary after a sudden change of venue for the COP25 summit following a wave of anti-government protests that hit Chile, the original host.

British professional yachtswoman Nicola Henderson, yacht owners Elayna Carausu and her husband Riley Whitelum, with their son, and Thunberg dock earlier this week in Lisbon, Portugal, after crossing the Atlantic. (Horacio Villalobos/Getty Images)

Separately Friday, an alliance of American states, cities, academic institutions and companies opened its own venue at the UN climate talks, aiming to show that despite the federal administration's decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris accord, many Americans remain committed to the treaty's goal of curbing global warming.

Elan Strait, who manages the "We Are Still In" initiative for the environmental conservationist World Wildlife Fund, said the movement is "a short-term band-aid not only to get those carbon dioxide emissions down but also to encourage policymakers to lay the ground for further achievements.

"And that, regardless of the colour of the government that is in power," Strait said.

Over 3,800 organizations and corporations representing 70 per cent of U.S. economic output have joined the coalition, organizers claim, amounting to roughly half of the country's emissions.

The U.S. Climate Action Center is hosting Mandela Barnes, lieutenant governor of Wisconsin, Pat Brown, chief executive of non-meat burger company Impossible Foods, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and others.

The venue is funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, a charitable organization founded by billionaire businessman and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is now seeking the Democratic nomination for the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

With files from The Associated Press

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