Greta Thunberg on Friday received a celebrity welcome in Madrid, Spain, where global climate negotiations are currently in session.
The 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden disembarked a 9am train from Lisbon, Portugal, where she arrived by a carbon-free boat after cutting short her trip to Chile, which was earmarked to host the 25th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change underway in the Spanish capital.
Shortly after her arrival, she joined her peers at COP25 in chanting protest songs against laxity in the push to reduce carbon emissions and global warming.
“What do we want? Climate Justice! When do we want it? Now!” the striking youth chanted, with all eyes on the founder of the Fridays for Future marches that have gone viral both in schools and cities worldwide.
Greta’s weekly strikes outside Swedish Parliament have spiralled into a global movement of youth protests against doing business as usual as the planet gets warmer and more populated.
The girl, who shuns air travel to reduce emissions that fuel climate change, has spent three weeks on a boat to Lisbon after Chile waived its rights to host the conference amid widespread anti-government protests.
The conference opened on Monday with 200 countries nodding to ‘a green revolution’ in line with the Paris Agreement to keep the rise in surface temperature to well below two degrees Celsius.
Greta is expected to lead a climate march at Atocha in Madrid later in the afternoon.
Her unwavering voice against laxity in the fight against climate change has awakened the youth to start demanding bold action to prevent worse effects of what she terms a climate emergency.
Jessy Nkhoma and Isaac Mzembe, who participated in the trending climate strikes in London in October, described her as a voice for all youth dying for urgent solutions to climate change.
Said Jessy: “Through these school strikes, Greta has shown that the youth have a voice and leaders must listen. She is luckier to have grown up in a setting where she is exposed to quality education and adequate information about her rights.
“If I had half the support she gets, I would have held vigils at Malawi Parliament, even the State House, to remind those in power to act responsibly because our future is in their hands.”
Jesse, a Form Four pupil at Chilanga Community Day Secondary School in Kasungu, nearly dropped out of school as her family of farmers hardly produces enough yield to meet her education needs. She was saved by a bursary from Oxfam, who flew her to London to address her protesting peers on the harsh effects of climate change on least developed countries and request for replenishment of the educational aid which saved her from marrying at 16.
Nearly half of women in Malawi marry before their 18th birthday, both government and United Nations figures show.
“The youth must speak up because climate change affects their future. As rainfall has become increasingly unpredictable and erratic, often disappearing before crops are ready for harvesting, children are dropping out of school and teachers are spending more time searching for food instead of teaching. If we continue doing business at the current pace, what does the future hold for us?”
Isaac asked government to keep hands off fossil fuels, censuring a switch to diesel-powered generators to supplement hydropower and plans to construct a 300-megawatt coal-fired power plant at Kamwamba in Neno.
“The country is paying a high price when it comes to climate change although our carbon emissions are much lower than those being produced by developed countries. While we want wealthy nations to invest more in helping us reduce and cope with the terrible consequences of climate change, we need to set a good example when it comes to reducing carbon emissions. The youth must demand climate justice as Greta is doing. It’s about our future,” he said.