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Climate activist Greta Thunberg wins top human rights award

Greta Thunberg speaks during a demonstration calling for action on climate change, during the 'Fridays for Future' school strike in Vienna

Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg and the millions of school students she inspired to skip school to protest for climate action on Friday won a global human rights award.

A growing movement of young protesters demanding action on climate change – inspired by 16-year-old Thunberg who started a weekly vigil outside Sweden’s parliament last year – has spread to countries like Brazil, Uganda and Australia.

Thunberg and her “Fridays for Future” global movement won Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award, joining the likes of South African leader Nelson Mandela and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai.

“You have to fight for what you think is right. I think all those who are part of this movement are doing that,” said Thunberg in a statement.

“The blatant injustice we all need to fight against is that people in the global south are the ones who are and will be most affected by climate change, while they are the least responsible for causing it,” she said.

The viral school strike phenomenon has flipped traditional patterns of authority, handing leadership roles to teenagers who feel aghast at the mismatch between calls for transformative action from climate scientists and rising carbon emissions.

Last year, global carbon emissions hit a new record high, despite a warning from a United Nations report in October that output of the gases will have to be slashed over the next 12 years to stabilise the climate.

“We are humbled and inspired by the determination with which youth activists across the world are challenging us all to confront the realities of the climate crisis,” said Kumi Naidoo, secretary-general of Amnesty International.

“They remind us that we are more powerful than we know and that we all have a role to play in protecting human rights against climate catastrophe.”

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