Greta Thunberg urges EU to ‘take action now’ in speech to European Parliament

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg appeared to break down in tears when she addressed MEPs in Strasbourg about what she called “an ecological and climate crisis.”

Greta Thunberg | Photo credit: European Parliament Audiovisual

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

16 Apr 2019

In a speech to MEPs, Thunberg spoke of the “world being at stake” and urged the EU and others to “take action now” to help combat global warming.

The teenager, who won applause from members of the environmental committee throughout her address, said, “I want you to panic and act as if this House was on fire. Some say panic never leads to anything and that to panic is a terrible idea but when your house is on fire it requires some level of panic.”

“Our civilisation is so fragile and the foundations are far from solid. We have been cutting so many corners and I hope our foundations are strong but I fear they are not.”


The 16-year-old, who is due to meet the Pope on Wednesday, said, “We face an end to civilisation as we know it unless permanent changes take place in our society, including a reduction of our C02 emissions by at least 20 per cent.”

Speaking of a “climate ecological breakdown”, she said, “Our house is falling apart and our leaders need to act accordingly because they are not doing so currently. We need to change all our behaviours.”

As she spoke, a demonstration was taking place elsewhere in Strasbourg involving, she said, “many young people.”

She asked committee members, “If your house was falling down you would not hold 3 emergency Brexit summits and argue about phasing out coal only in 15 years’ time. You would not celebrate Norway continuing to drill for oil for decades.”

“We face an end to civilisation as we know it unless permanent changes take place in our society, including a reduction of our C02 emissions by at least 20 per cent”

She urged political leaders to “stop spending all your time arguing about taxes or Brexit, set your differences aside and start cooperating.”

The youngster argued that it is the “climate crisis” that should “make all the headlines, not stories like Brexit.

She repeated, “Our house is falling apart and we are rapidly running out of time yet nothing, basically, is happening.”

“European elections are coming soon and many like me who are affected most by this crisis, are not allowed to vote. That is why millions of children are taking to the street to draw attention to the climate crisis.”

“You need to listen to us and vote for us. What we are doing now cannot be undone. Yet, some parties don’t even want me to talk here today because they do not want me to talk about the climate breakdown.”

Speaking at a packed committee, she said, “It is not too late to act but it will take far-reaching vision and fierce determination, in other words, it will take cathedral-like thinking. My plea is: Please wake up and do the seemingly impossible.”

“I am only 16 but you cannot ignore the scientists, science or millions of children who are striking for a future. I beg you: please do not fail.”

“If your house was falling down you would not hold three emergency Brexit summits and argue about phasing out coal only in 15 years’ time”

After being given a standing ovation, EPP deputy Peter Liese praised her “very inspiring speech” saying, “You are pushing us to do more for the climate. Climate change is the biggest challenge of our generation and that is why we need to do much more.”

“So, yes, push us to do more and I hope we can work with climate-minded young people like you.”

Maltese deputy Miriam Dali said, “I speak as a mother of two and I feel the same as you, Greta. But when it comes to the crunch we, here, often end up backing down from our climate ambitions.”

“It is not about your age or where you are from but your determination to make a change. You have a lot of that determination and it’s impacting on other young people and the older generation too.”

Dutch Greens member Bas Eickhout thanked the Swede, saying a new poll showed a large majority of citizens say they will go to poll because of the climate “partly thanks to your efforts.”

He added, “I hope we all remember this day when we speak of an end to the world in July when we vote on new EC president and whether we really want to change our polices, phase out coal and make aviation pay.”

EU climate commissioner Miguel Canete said that May’s poll was a “chance to put climate at the centre of the election. This is an issue of our generation so please keep up the pressure. Most importantly, it is your future.”

Speaking earlier at a news briefing, Thunberg said, “We will have to see if they, our leaders, take action now and I hope they are listening.”

She said she had accepted the invitation to speak in Parliament as it “was a great opportunity to get our message out and speak on behalf of young people who share my concerns about an ecological breakdown and climate crisis.”

“To the young people who, like me, are fighting for the future, I say continue because you are doing a great job. There are hundreds of students striking for the climate. They are making history so they should be very proud of themselves.”

“I expect MEPs to take action now because there is not much time left. We still have an open window, but it won’t be open for long. We must act and MEPs should be doing something.”

Turning to the elections, she said, “It is essential to vote in this election. I won’t because I cannot but it is especially important for those who can so they can speak on behalf of people like me who will be very much affected by this crisis.”

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