Teenage activist tells EU to ‘forget Brexit’ and focus on climate change

Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg speaks at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. (AP P

Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg speaks at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias) - Credit: AP

Swedish teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg says time is running out to halt climate change and she is urging European politicians 'to panic'.

The 16-year-old told EU leaders it was time to forget Brexit and to focus on the key issue facing the whole world.

Thunberg said that if politicians were serious about tackling climate change they would not spend all their time 'talking about Brexit'.

She told MEPs: 'I want you to act as if the house is on fire.'

'Our house is falling apart and our leaders need to start acting accordingly because at the moment they are not,' she said.

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'If our house was falling apart our leaders wouldn't go on like we do today,' 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 the environment.'

Her speech was met with a standing ovation, as Thunberg fought back tears to warn about rapid species extinctions, soil erosion, deforestation and the pollution of oceans.

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In a reference to the international funding effort launched to rebuild the fire-ravaged Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, she urged MEPs and officials to use 'cathedral thinking' to tackle climate change.

She said: 'It is still not too late to act. It will take a far-reaching vision, it will take courage, it will take fierce, fierce determination to act now, to lay the foundations where we may not know all the details about how to shape the ceiling.

'In other words it will take cathedral thinking. I ask you to please wake up and make changes required possible.'

She added that it was 'essential' to vote in European elections.

'I'm not going to vote in the European election because I can't,' she said, because she is too young to vote in Sweden.

'Therefore it's especially important for those who actually can vote to give us that in order to speak on behalf of people like me who are going to be affected very much by this crisis.'

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