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Greta Thunberg to French MPs: you can ignore children, not scientists

Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg delivers a speech before a debate with French parliament members at the National Assembly in Paris

By Simon Carraud and Geert De Clercq

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg said on Tuesday it was ok for some members of the French parliament to ignore her and other children’s warnings about global warming but she implored them to listen to scientists.

Ahead of her speech to a group of MPs, conservative and far-right lawmakers hurled insults and said they would shun the 16-year-old, who has inspired a global network of young climate protesters.

Invited by a cross-party group of politicians, Thunberg and several other children spoke to a French parliamentary committee meeting and later watched from the public gallery as parliament voted on a controversial EU-Canada trade agreement.

“Some people have chosen not to come here today, some have chosen not to listen to us and that is fine, we are after all just children, you don’t have to listen to us. But you do have to listen to the scientists, that is all we ask,” Thunberg said.

Two leading MPs for the conservative Les Republicains party of former President Nicolas Sarkozy had called Thunberg a “guru of the apocalypse”, “Nobel prize of fear” and other insults. One of them called on fellow MPs to boycott her speech.

Recent months have seen millions of young people worldwide walk out of school on Fridays to back Thunberg’s demands for urgent action from governments to curb carbon emissions.

Thunberg began a climate protest outside the Swedish parliament last August. The Fridays for Future school strike movement has since spread to more than 100 countries.

A European MP for the far-right Rassemblement National said it was wrong to bring in “the Joan of Arc of climate change” while parliament is voting on the EU-Canada trade deal”.

Green activists have criticized the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) saying it undermines the European Union’s social and ecological regulations by importing products made under conditions that would not be allowed in Europe.

“Greta or CETA, your choice,” said MP Francois Ruffin of the far-left La France Insoumise.

Parliament approved the CETA agreement with a relatively small majority of 266 to 213 votes, with 69 MPS of President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance either abstaining or voting against it. The alliance has a total of 349 seats in the 577-seat parliament.

“Those who are turning a deaf ear to the warnings of youth are making a mistake,” said independent MP Matthieu Orphelin, who had organised Thunberg’s visit.

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