Greta Thunberg in the European Parliament committee on environment

Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, made an impassioned plea for the planet at the European Parliament on Tuesday (16 April), urging MEPs to “start panicking about climate change” rather than “waste time arguing about Brexit”.

She said that “if our house was falling apart you wouldn’t hold three emergency Brexit summits and no emergency summit regarding the breakdown of the climate and environment.” During a speech met with a standing ovation, Thunberg fought back tears as she warned about rapid species extinctions, soil erosion, deforestation and the pollution of oceans.

In another impressive speech to EU officials, this time in front of the Parliament’s environment committee, Thunberg told MEPs that “I want you to act like the house is on fire. I want you to panic.” The activist acknowledged that “some parties don’t want me here today because they so desperately don’t want to talk about climate breakdown” but reiterated that “it’s ok if you ignore me but you can’t ignore the science”.

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Drawing parallels with Monday night’s tragic inferno that ripped through the roof of Paris’ Notre-Dame cathedral, Thunberg hoped “that our civilisation’s foundations are even stronger than Notre-Dame’s.

In a reference to the international funding effort launched to rebuild the fire-ravaged Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, she urged the lawmakers to use “cathedral thinking” to tackle climate change.

I fear that they are not.” She added that “if the house was falling apart, you wouldn’t waste time arguing about Brexit” and that “permanent and unprecedented changes” are needed, including making sure that emissions are cut by at least 50% by 2030. The current target is 40%.

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