Theresa May fails to attend meeting with teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg

Sixteen-year-old campaigner says UK government support for fossil fuels and airport expansion is ‘beyond absurd’

Rob Merrick
Wednesday 24 April 2019 08:28
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Greta Thunberg meets Westminster party leaders

Teenage climate change activist Greta Thunberg left an empty chair for Theresa May after the prime minister failed to join a meeting with other party leaders.

As Extinction Rebellion protesters gathered noisily again outside parliament, Jeremy Corbyn told the 16-year-old Swedish schoolgirl: “Well done for what you have done.”

Organisers of the get-together – which took place at the same time as a delayed cabinet meeting – said no response had been received to an invitation issued to the prime minister.

Pointedly, they left a place at the table for Ms May, as her official spokesman said he was “not aware” of any request for her to meet Ms Thunberg.

The teenager won worldwide fame after beginning a solitary school strike for the climate protest outside the Swedish parliament in August last year.

Her stand inspired school walkouts by hundreds of thousands of young people around the world, including in the UK, which joined the Global Climate Strike in March.

As well as Mr Corbyn, Ms Thunberg met Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat leader, the Greens’ Caroline Lucas and the Westminster leaders of the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru, Ian Blackford and Liz Saville Roberts.

Opening the round-table talks, the activist – who also earlier met Commons speaker John Bercow – told the MPs: “We just want people to listen to the science.”

Later addressing a packed room at Westminster she condemned the government’s active support for fossil fuels and airport expansion as “beyond absurd”.

“This ongoing irresponsible behaviour will no doubt be remembered in history as one of the greatest failures of humankind,” she told MPs.

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg tells Extinction Rebellion supporters 'humanity is at a crossroads'

The UK has been portrayed as a leader in the fight against global warming, but Ms Thunberg strongly criticised the government’s record.

“The UK’s active current support of new exploitation of fossil fuels, like for example the UK shale gas fracking industry, the expansion of its North Sea oil and gas fields, the expansion of airports, as well as the planning permission for a brand new coal mine, is beyond absurd.”

The teenager also said today’s generation of leaders around the world had not acted fast enough to halt climate change.

“You lied to us. You gave us false hope. You told us that the future was something to look forward to,” she said. “You don’t listen to the science because you are only interested in solutions that will enable you to carry on like before.”

Michael Gove, the environment secretary, who attended the later event, told Ms Thunberg she had been heard and admitted “we have not done nearly enough”.

“Suddenly in the past few years it has become inescapable that we have to act,” Mr Gove said. “The time to act is now, the challenge could not be clearer, Greta you have been heard.”

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