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article imageSwedish teen Thunberg slams 'hate and threats' as visit divides French parliament

By Stuart WILLIAMS (AFP)     Jul 23, 2019 in Environment

Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg on Tuesday lashed out at the abuse she receives for speaking out over global warming, after a visit to France's parliament provoked a backlash from right-wing deputies.

Some right-wing MPs boycotted the impassioned speech at the National Assembly by Thunberg, whose school strikes protesting government inaction over climate change helped sparked a worldwide movement.

But Thunberg, 16, took on her critics directly, saying all she and her young supporters were doing was highlighting the dramatic risks as shown by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Thunberg (2nd L) was received by President of the French National Assembly Richard Ferrand (R) in th...
Thunberg (2nd L) was received by President of the French National Assembly Richard Ferrand (R) in the garden of the Hotel de Lassay ahead of her visit of the French National Assembly
Lionel BONAVENTURE, AFP

She accused politicians, business leaders and journalists of failing to communicate the scientific truth as shown in the latest IPCC report and leaving the burden to children.

"We become the bad guys who have to tell people these uncomfortable things because no one else wants to, or dares to," said Thunberg, speaking in English at one of the parliament's conference rooms.

"And just for quoting or acting on these numbers, these scientific facts, we receive unimaginable amounts of hate and threats. We are being mocked and lied about by members of parliament and journalists," she added.

- 'Saying the world is finished' -

The activist was invited by 162 MPs from a cross-party group concerned about climate change called "Let's Accelerate".

But many conservative figures on the French right have criticised the invitation, dismissing her as a "prophetess in shorts" and the "Justin Bieber of ecology" and refused to attend the speech.

Republicans MP Guillaume Larrive called on MPs to boycott her appearance, saying that to fight climate change "what we need is scientific progress and political courage, not apocalyptic gurus".

Thunberg has been criticised by some French deputies on the right and far-right
Thunberg has been criticised by some French deputies on the right and far-right
Lionel BONAVENTURE, AFP

Julien Aubert, like Larrive a Republicans MP contending for leadership of the right-wing party, snapped: "Don't count on me to applaud a prophetess in shorts, a Nobel Prize for Fear."

Jordan Bardella, an MEP who is one of the rising stars of the far-right National Rally (RN), told France 2 television that "this dictatorship of perpetual emotion -- all the more when it relies on children -- is a new form of totalitarianism".

Bardella, 23, lashed out at "using children to show a fatalism to try and explain to all young people that the world is finished, that everything is going to catch fire and that nothing is possible."

- 'We are just children' -

Thunberg insisted that the politicians had the right to stay away from her speech but could no longer ignore the stark scientific truths.

"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!" said Thunberg, who was later due to be a guest in the main chamber.

"You don't have to listen to us. but you do have to listen to the science... and that is all we ask, to unite behind the science."

'It is sad people are so desperate that they make things up ' Thunberg said of her critics
'It is sad people are so desperate that they make things up,' Thunberg said of her critics
Lionel BONAVENTURE, AFP

Thunberg, who on her Twitter feed describes herself as a "16 year old climate activist with Asperger" has long been the target of vicious attacks by social media trolls. But it is rare for politicians to join the fray.

"It is sad people are so desperate that they make things up," she told French youth news site Konbini ahead of her visit to parliament.

The criticism was also met with dismay by Green MPs and some from President Emmanuel Macron's Republic on the Move (LREM) majority.

"Larrive and Aubert are playing an internal game on the back of the battle against climate change," said Delphine Batho, head of the Generation Ecology party.

Her appearance came as France again swelters in a new heatwave with record high temperatures expected in Paris on Thursday.

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