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Children spoke up for their own future on the Katowice climate summit

Greta Thunberg, 15, told UN summit that students are acting in absence of global leadership.

'Our leaders are like children,' school strike founder tells climate summit. Action to fight global warming is coming whether world leaders like it or not, school student Greta Thunberg has told the UN climate change summit, accusing them of behaving like irresponsible children.

Thunberg began a solo climate protest by striking from school in Sweden in August. But more than 20,000 students around the world have now joined her. The school strikes have spread to at least 270 towns and cities in countries across the world, including Australia, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the US and Japan.

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“Since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago,” she said. “We have to understand what the older generation has dealt to us, what mess they have created that we have to clean up and live with. We have to make our voices heard.”

The conference of nearly 200 nations is taking place in Katowice, Poland, and its main task is to turn the vision of tackling global warming agreed in Paris in 2015 into concrete action. On Monday, Sir David Attenborough told the summit that without action “the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon”.

Thunberg, who had a meeting with the UN secretary general, António Guterres, on Monday, said: “What I hope we achieve at this conference is that we realise that we are facing an existential threat. This is the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced. First we have to realise this and then as fast as possible do something to stop the emissions and try to save what we can save.”

On Tuesday, Guterres said: “Our younger generations will have to help drive, and complete, the work we start today. We need to harness their energy, invention and political power to raise climate ambition.”

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Toby Thorpe, a school student from Hobart, Tasmania, who took part in the recent school strikes in Australia and is also at the UN summit, said: “We are in this together. Together we are strong and we will not give up.” Australia’s resources minister, Matt Canavan, had dismissed the school strike – “the best thing you’ll learn about going to a protest is how to join the dole queue” – but the Senate later approved a motion in support of the students.

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