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Teen protest leader tells EU to focus on climate change instead of Brexit

Greta Thunberg told MEPs and EU officials it was time to “panic”.

The teenager behind the school climate strikes has told the European Union to spend less time worrying about Brexit and focus on the future of the planet.

Greta Thunberg, 16, delivered a speech to a collection of MEPs and EU officials in Stasbourg, telling them “our house is falling down” but political leaders are not acting with the necessary urgency to deal with an upcoming climate crisis.

Young Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg speaks during a special meeting of the Environment Committee at the European Parliament
Greta Thunberg told MEPs it was time to “panic” (Jean-Francois Badias/AP)

She said: “If our house was falling apart, you wouldn’t hold three emergency Brexit summits and no emergency summit regarding the breakdown of the climate and environment.

“You wouldn’t be arguing about phasing out coal in 15 or 11 years.

“If our house was falling apart you wouldn’t be celebrating that one single nation like Ireland may soon divest from fossil fuels.”

In a forthright and wide-ranging attack on humanity’s response to the problem, she chided the media, politicians and business leaders for failing to give the issue the prominence it merits.

She told a special meeting of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee it was time to “panic” and called on politicians to “unite behind the science” ahead of next month’s EU elections.

As she outlined the scope of the problem, Thunberg choked up as she said: “The extinction rate is up to six times faster than what is considered normal, with up to 200 species becoming extinct every single day

“Erosion of fertile topsoil, deforestation of the rainforest, toxic air pollution, loss of insects and wildlife, acidification of our oceans – these are all disastrous trends being accelerated by a way of life that we here in our financially fortunate part of the world see as our right to simply carry on.”

The statement, like many others in her 10-minute speech, was met with loud applause from the gathered officials.

Young Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg reacts after giving a speech during a special meeting of the Environment Committee at the European Parliament
Greta Thunberg’s speech was warmly received by gathered MEPs and EU officials (Jean-Francois Badias/AP)

Thunberg was the spark for a global movement of school strikes when, last year, she cut class to protest alone in front of the Swedish parliament building.

Since then she has spoken at a host of high profile occasions and venues, including the UN climate change summit and the World Economic Forum.

Next week she will be in London to address MPs at a special parliamentary reception in Westminster.

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