Legislators from the conservative Les Republicains and far-right Rassemblement National parties refused to attend the session and hurled a series of insults at the teenager – calling her the “Joan of Arc of climate change”, the “Justin Bieber of ecology” and a “prophetess in shorts”.
The Swedish activist, who has inspired a global network of young climate protesters, responded to the cynicism when she spoke at a parliamentary committee meeting.
“Some people have chosen not to come here today, some have chosen not to listen to us and that is fine, we are after all just children, you don’t have to listen to us. But you do have to listen to the scientists, that is all we ask,” she said.
Thunberg organised a school strike climate protest outside the Swedish parliament last August. The “Fridays for Future” walkout movement has since spread to more than 100 countries, involving millions of young people.
Yet French right-wingers made clear they were unimpressed by her achievements after she arrived in Paris. “I call on my colleagues to boycott Greta Thunberg. We do not need gurus of the apocalypse,” Guillaume Larrive, who is running to be leader of Les Republicains, said on Twitter.
Julien Aubert, another candidate to lead the conservatives, tweeted: “Do not count on me to go and applaud a prophetess in shorts, Nobel prize of fear.”
Jordan Bardella, a member of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National party in the European parliament, said: “Using children to hawk a fatalist message about the world going up in flames, and skipping school and going on strike, that is a deeply defeatist approach,” before referring to Thunberg as “the Joan of Arc of climate change”.
On Tuesday, the French parliament approved the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta), which has been criticised by environmentalists.
Green activists claim Ceta undermines the EU’s social and ecological regulations by importing products made under conditions that would not be allowed in Europe.
“Greta or Ceta, your choice,” said MP Francois Ruffin of the far-left La France Insoumise prior to the vote, which saw the deal backed by a relatively small majority of 266 to 213 votes.
“Those who are turning a deaf ear to the warnings of youth are making a mistake,” said independent MP Matthieu Orphelin, who had organised Thunberg’s visit.
Additional reporting by agencies
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies