LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s opposition leaders met Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg on Tuesday to discuss what the teenager calls an “existential crisis” for humanity.
After months of Brexit tumult, climate change has leapt back up Britain’s political agenda due to protests that closed some of London’s traffic arteries.
Thunberg, who rose to global prominence by staging a school strike to protest about the climate, has praised the “Extinction Rebellion” sits-ins in London.
The police have arrested 1,065 people and charged 71 in connection with the Extinction Rebellion protests that targeted Oxford Circus, Waterloo Bridge and other parts of London.
Thunberg called on more people to take action.
“As long as it’s non-violent I think that it could definitely make a difference, it could make people become more aware of the situation, that we actually show that this is an emergency,” she told BBC television.
At the meeting with Thunberg, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, told her: “Well done with what you have done. You have changed the debate in a lot of ways which was very good and that needs to happen.”
After watching her deliver a separate speech to an audience of lawmakers, Britain’s Environment Secretary Michael Gove told Thunberg: “Your voice - still calm and clear - is like the voice of our conscience, and as I listen to you, I felt both admiration but also a sense of responsibility and guilt, because I recognise that I am of your parents’ generation.”
There is broad political consensus in Britain that action is urgently needed to tackle climate change, but 16-year-old Thunberg said in her speech that the country’s industrial policies failed to answer the urgent need to cut the greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.
“The UK’s active, current support of new exploitation of fossil fuels – 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,” she said.
“This ongoing irresponsible behaviour will no doubt be remembered in history as one of the greatest failures of humankind,” she said.
Reporting by Emily Roe and James Davey; Editing by Robin Pomeroy and Alison Williams