National leaders have rebuked Greta Thunberg after the climate campaigner criticised their inaction and started a legal challenge against France and Germany’s environmental policies.
President Macron and Angela Merkel, who had both previously endorsed Ms Thunberg’s Fridays for Future school strike movement, were stung into reacting to what one French minister termed her “despair . . . verging on hatred”.
Scott Morrison, 51, the prime minister of Australia and a fossil fuels enthusiast, also accused her of stirring up “needless anxiety” among his country’s children.
Ms Thunberg, 16, rose to global celebrity in the space of 12 months after a solitary protest outside parliament before last year’s general election in Sweden.
Last Friday she mobilised an estimated four million demonstrators in more than 100 countries to join protests after sailing across the Atlantic to address a UN climate summit in New York.
In an uncompromising speech she told the world’s politicians that they had “stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words”. She accused governments of betraying young people. “You are not mature enough to tell it like it is,” she said. “You are failing us.”
She joined 15 other child protesters in filing a formal complaint to the UN that nations including Brazil, Germany, Turkey and France had violated international children’s rights by failing to take sufficiently bold measures to reduce carbon emissions. This step appears to have provoked some governments that might otherwise have counted themselves among her allies.
Mr Macron, 41, who adopted Fridays for Future as the motto for the G7 summit he hosted in Biarritz last month and said that the movement had “fundamentally changed” him, abruptly turned on Ms Thunberg.
“All the movements among our youth, or the less young, are useful,” he told Europe 1, a French broadcaster. “But now they must concentrate on the people who are further away [from their position], those who are trying to block them. These radical positions will naturally antagonise our societies.”
Brune Poirson, the French ecology minister, questioned whether Ms Thunberg could succeed in “mobilising people with despair, with what is verging on hatred, setting people against one another”. […]
Yesterday Boris Palmer, 47, a prominent figure in the German Green party and the mayor of the university city of Tübingen, said he was worried that her movement was becoming “radicalised” and urged her followers to ignore her call to “panic” about the climate.
“If you’re panicking, you’re no longer in a position to deal with things thoughtfully, and therefore you don’t achieve your goals,” he told Die Welt.