School strikes have ‘achieved nothing’: Greta Thumberg says climate movement only managed a PR victory

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After more than a year of school strikes, climate marches and high-profile speeches, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg told supporters that her movement hasn’t achieved any actual change and she doesn’t want to continue.

“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 activists in Madrid on Friday. The 16-year-old activist arrived in the Spanish capital earlier in the day to attend a UN climate summit.

Thunberg, who first shot to fame for organizing a school walkout in her native Sweden last year, said that the worldwide school strike movement is “not a sustainable solution” to climate change.

“We don’t want to continue. We would love some action from people in power,” she added. “We have achieved a lot, but if you look at it from a certain point of view we have achieved nothing.”

Rather than an admission of defeat, Thunberg’s statement was likely another attempt to shame world leaders into declaring a “climate emergency” and pledging to slash carbon emissions. She struck a similar tone in New York in September, when she told another UN summit “I shouldn’t be up here,” before chastising them for stealing her “dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”

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Thunberg has become probably the world’s best-known climate activist, yet preaches a particularly apocalyptic message. Her declaration that her movement has “achieved nothing” will sound familiar to anyone who tuned into her speech before Britain’s Parliament in April, where she proclaimed “we probably don’t even have a future anymore.”

Thunberg issued a call to action to officials attending the two-week summit in Madrid. “The only thing we want to see is real action,” she said, adding that “people are suffering and dying from the climate and ecological emergency today and we cannot wait any longer.”

While Thunberg may lament the perceived inaction of world leaders, her movement has left an impact. Alongside eco-hardliners like Extinction Rebellion, Thunberg’s call to action has been heeded by millions of protesters worldwide. Her exhortation for politicians to “tell it like it is” has led to the European Union declaring a “climate emergency” on behalf of its 28 member states last month, and more than 1,000 local governments issuing similar declarations worldwide.

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Though Thunberg has been a relentless advocate for climate action, she has not offered any concrete plans to actually slash carbon emissions to zero, let alone without tanking the world’s economy, and somehow convincing high-polluting nations in Asia and Africa to get on board.

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