Greta Thunberg in Madrid: “I hope world leaders grasp the urgency of the climate crisis”

The teen activist arrived on Friday and made a surprise visit to the COP25 summit before heading out to a news conference and a protest against global warming

Greta Thunberg and other youths at the Madrid climate change summit on Friday.Video: Juan Carlos Hidalgo

Greta Thunberg, the teenage environmental activist, arrived in Madrid on Friday morning to participate in a march in the Spanish capital, which is currently hosting the United Nations climate summit known as COP25.

Speaking at a press conference at the cultural center La Casa Encendida on Friday afternoon, Thunberg praised the growing global social movement for climate action, but noted that politicians are still dragging their feet.

They shouldn't listen to me before anyone else. I am a small part of a very big movement.

“We are getting bigger and bigger, and our voices are being heard more and more, but of course that does not translate into political action,” she said. “I sincerely hope that world leaders, that the people in power, grasp the urgency of the climate crisis because right now it doesn’t seem like they are.”

Thunberg was flanked by three activists from Fridays for Future Spain, a group inspired by the young campaigner’s own original protest in August 2018 outside the Swedish parliament. Also present was a 23-year-old activist from Uganda, Vanessa Nakate, who heads an initiative to save the Congo rainforest.

From Lisbon to Madrid

The Swedish 16-year-old traveled by train from Lisbon and pulled into Atocha station at 8.40am, honoring her self-imposed ban on air travel because of its carbon emissions. She landed at the station carrying her famous sign with the message: “Skolstrejk för Klimatet,” meaning “school strike for the climate.” When she arrived, dozens of journalists were waiting at the platform, along with supporters and parents with children. 

Greta Thunberg at the headquarters of the climate change summit in Madrid.
Greta Thunberg at the headquarters of the climate change summit in Madrid.Ministry of Ecological Transition

Traveling with her were around 30 journalists from several countries sent to cover the young campaigner’s journey. Thunberg opted for the train after turning down several alternative offers to make the trip by electric car, and even by donkey.

The Lusitania sleeper train covered the 210 kilometers separating the Portuguese and Spanish capitals in 10 hours, and used a diesel engine after crossing the border at Salamanca province, making the journey less than completely green. Waiting for her at the station were two red electric taxis.

Thunberg has already made a quick surprise visit to the Ifema conference center, where the COP25 climate summit is being held. According to Thunberg’s press team, it was a ”spontaneous decision.” Madrid is hosting the international conference after Chile canceled due to violent street unrest.

Climate march

After the news conference at La Casa EncendidaThunberg will take part in the climate march scheduled to begin at 6pm in Atocha that will end at Nuevos Ministerios in Chamberí, a government complex in the center, where Spanish actor Javier Bardem and music groups Amaral and Macaco are set to make an appearance. The march, called under the slogan “world is waking up to the climate crisis,” has the support of 850 social and environmental organizations.

By 5pm, people were starting to arrive from other parts of Spain to participate in the march. Three buses showed up with activists who live near the Mar Menor, a saltwater lagoon that made world headlines in October when thousands of fish suddenly washed up dead on its shore.

A delegation of three buses has arrived in Madrid from the Mar Menor area to raise their voices and denounce the catastrophic situation of the lagoon. They are also joining the climate march.

English version by Susana Urra and Melissa Kitson.

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