Parliament political groups under fire for ‘blocking’ Greta Thunberg invitation

Written by Martin Banks on 15 March 2019 in News
News

Five political groups in the European Parliament have been criticised for allegedly “blocking” an invitation to 16-year-old environmentalist Greta Thunberg to speak in the assembly earlier this week.

Greta Thunberg | Photo credit: Press Association


The Swedish schoolgirl, who has inspired an international movement to fight climate change, has been nominated as a candidate to receive this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

The left wing GUE/NGL group in Parliament said it had supported moves for Thunberg to address the plenary in Strasbourg this week but says that the proposal was blocked by other groups, including the EPP, Alde, ECR, EFDD and ENF.

A GUE source told this website, “The EPP said this is ‘not a place for children’ and the EFDD said they should be at school. GUE/NGL, the Greens and the S&D argued otherwise.”


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In opposition to the “veto” GUE said it invited 60 youth activists from 22 countries to meet MEPs in the French city and speak about their demands and on ways to support their environmentalist cause.

The source said the young people attended individual group meetings and were invited to watch a parliamentary debate on Wednesday on climate change from the tribunes inside the Parliament.

He said, “The progressive groups wanted to invite her [Greta Thunberg] but she did not come.”

GUE said it welcomed the rise of the protest movement of youth from across Europe striking for climate action.

“Greta Thunberg was blocked from addressing this Parliament because she speaks truth to power. That truth is that we are failing on climate change” Lynn Boylan MEP

The latest student climate action, initiated by Thunberg, was a global strike by school children on Friday, their biggest global protest to date.

GUE MEP Lynn Boylan (Sinn Féin, Ireland) said, “Greta Thunberg was blocked from addressing this Parliament because she speaks truth to power. That truth is that we are failing on climate change. Failing to take the bold steps that are required. Failing to lead.”

“There are some in this chamber who are more concerned that young people would strike from school than they are about the fact that we have just 12 years to sort this mess out,” she added.

If Thunberg were to win the peace prize, she would be the youngest recipient since Pakistan's Malala Yousafzai, who was 17 when she received the prize.

Norwegian Socialist MP Freddy Andre Ovstegard said: “We have proposed Greta Thunberg because if we do nothing to halt climate change, it will be the cause of wars, conflict and refugees.”

“Greta Thunberg has launched a mass movement which I see as a major contribution to peace," he added.

The school strikes were inspired by the Fridays For The Future movement started by Thunberg under the hashtag #FridaysForFuture.

“Politicians have known the truth about climate change and they’ve willingly handed over our future to profiteers whose search for quick cash threatens our very existence” Greta Thunberg

So far, there have been regular walkouts around the world, including in countries such as Germany, Belgium, the UK, France, Australia and Japan.

But Friday's protest is billed as the biggest so far.

In an article published to coincide with the strikes on Friday, Thunberg writes, “These strikes are happening today - from Washington DC to Moscow, Tromsø to Invercargill, Beirut to Jerusalem, and Shanghai to Mumbai - because politicians have failed us.”

“We’ve seen years of negotiations, pathetic deals on climate change, fossil fuel companies being given free rein to carve open our lands, drill beneath our soils and burn away our futures for their profit. We’ve seen fracking, deep sea drilling and coalmining continue.”

“Politicians have known the truth about climate change and they’ve willingly handed over our future to profiteers whose search for quick cash threatens our very existence.”

The Guardian article goes on, “If those in power today don’t act, it will be our generation who will live through their failure. Those who are under 20 now could be around to see 2080 and face the prospect of a world that has warmed by up to 4°C. The effects of such warming would be utterly devastating.”

Meanwhile, MEPs in Strasbourg adopted a resolution on the EU’s long-term reduction targets of greenhouse gas emissions in the framework of the Paris Agreement. The text calls, among other things, for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

In a non-binding resolution, adopted with 369 votes to 116 and 40 abstentions, MEPs stated that only two of the eight scenarios (“pathways”) proposed by the European Commission in its November communication would enable the EU to reach net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050, the commitment made by the EU under the Paris climate agreement.

They said they support the Commission in pushing for these two scenarios.

Parliament also voiced support for the demonstrations, in particular in the form of climate marches and school strikes that are raising awareness of these climate risks.

MEPs say they will now ask national, regional and local governments, as well as the EU, to take concrete and swift action in order not to overshoot the 1.5°C climate limit.

The resolution stressed that in order to reach net-zero GHG emissions in 2050 in the most cost-efficient manner, the 2030 ambition level will need to be raised.

The EU must therefore send a clear message that it stands ready to review its contribution to the Paris Agreement.

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at The Parliament Magazine

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