Greta Thunberg's rise from youth activist to global climate leader

Climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks during a protest against the expansion of German utility RWE's Garzweiler open-cast lignite mine at Luetzerath, Germany, January 14, 2023. REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen 
explainer

Climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks during a protest against the expansion of German utility RWE's Garzweiler open-cast lignite mine at Luetzerath, Germany, January 14, 2023. REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen 

What’s the context?

As Greta Thunberg joins German climate protesters, here's how she built the global Fridays for Future movement

LONDON - Greta Thunberg said climate protest was no crime after police in Germany briefly detained the 20-year-old activist for joining a high-profile fight against an expanding coal industry.

The Swede - whose name is synonymous with climate activism - has spent several days with other young demonstrators in the western German village of Lützerath, which energy firm RWE wants to clear in order to expand its Garzweiler lignite coal mine.

Thunberg was filmed being carried away by police on Tuesday. Police said she was released after an identify check.

"Climate protection is not a crime," Thunberg wrote in a Twitter post the following day.

Lützerath has become a symbol of resistance against coal mining for the past two years.

Climate campaigners say boosting coal production in the short term will hinder Germany's efforts to meet its commitment to help limit global warming.

Germany missed its greenhouse gas emissions targets in 2022 after upping its use of oil and coal during the global energy crisis sparked by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, according to data from climate think-tank Agora Energiewende.

Germany aims to reduce emissions by 65% by 2030 compared to 1990 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2045.

Here's a timeline of Thunberg's rise from a solo climate striker to a leading global campaigner:

August 20, 2018: Swedish student Thunberg, aged 15, skips school to protest outside parliament for more action against climate change.

August 26, 2018: She is joined by fellow students, teachers and parents at another protest and begins attracting media attention for her climate campaign.

September 2018: Thunberg begins a regular 'strike' from classes every Friday to protest climate issues. She invites other students to join her weekly "Fridays for Future" campaign by staging walkouts at their own schools.

November 2018: More than 17,000 students in 24 countries take part in Friday school strikes. Thunberg begins speaking at high-profile events across Europe, including U.N. climate talks in Poland.

March 2019: Thunberg is nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. The number of students taking part in school strikes hits more than 2 million people across 135 countries.

May 2019: Thunberg is named one of the world's most influential people by Time magazine, appearing on its cover. "Now I am speaking to the whole world," she wrote on Twitter.

August 1, 2019: Thunberg hits back at "hate and conspiracy campaigns" after attacks by some right-wing lawmakers and commentators who questioned her credibility and described her as a "Nobel prize of fear".

August 2019: Thunberg, who refuses to fly, sails from Britain to the United States in a zero-emissions boat to take part in a U.N. climate summit. Meanwhile, the number of climate strikers reaches 3.6 million people across 169 countries.

September 23, 2019: Thunberg delivers a blistering speech to leaders at the U.N. summit, accusing them of having "stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words".    

September 25, 2019: Thunberg is named as one of four winners of the 2019 Right Livelihood Award, known as Sweden's alternative Nobel Prize.    

October 11, 2019: Despite being bookies' favourite to win, Thunberg misses out of the Nobel Peace Prize which goes to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.    

November 2019: Caught out by a last-minute switch of location for U.N. climate talks from Chile to Spain, Thunberg hitches a ride on a catamaran boat crossing back to Europe.    

December 11, 2019: Thunberg denounces "clever accounting and creative PR" to mask a lack of real action on climate change in a speech at the U.N. COP25 summit as the 16-year-old became the youngest individual to be Time Magazine's person of the year.

March 13, 2020: As governments limit or ban mass gatherings to stem the spread of the new coronavirus, Thunberg urges students to make week 82 of the school strike digital, with the hashtag #ClimateStrikeOnline.

March 24, 2020: Thunberg says the swift measures brought in to stem the coronavirus pandemic show that the world can also take the rapid action needed to curb climate change. She also says on social media that she may have caught COVID-19.

April 30, 2020: Thunberg donates a $100,000 award she received to UNICEF to buy soap, masks and gloves to protect children from the coronavirus pandemic.

July 20, 2020: Thunberg wins the first Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity and donates the 1 million euro prize money to charitable organisations.

January 31, 2021: Thunberg is again nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Russian dissident Alexei Navalny, the World Health Organization.

April 9, 2021: The activist says she will not attend COP26 in Glasgow, due to run Nov. 1-12, because of concerns over vaccine inequality - but later changes her mind after the UK government offers to vaccinate all participants against COVID-19.

April 19, 2021: Thunberg says her foundation will give 100,000 euros ($120,000) to the WHO Foundation to support the COVAX vaccine-sharing scheme.

November 2, 2021: Protesting outside the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, Thunberg says world leaders have "led us nowhere" and it is up to civil activists to bring about change.    "Change won’t come from these conferences like #COP26 unless there is big public pressure from the outside," she tweeted.

June 25, 2022: Festival-goers welcome Thunberg on stage at Britain’s Glastonbury festival, during a surprise appearance where she criticizes world leaders and tells the crowd they have the power to act now.

September 6, 2022: In the run-up to Sweden’s election on September 11, Thunberg accuses politicians of ignoring the climate crisis during their campaigns and treating it as if it were simply a problem rather than a life-or-death threat.

October 20, 2022: Thunberg tweets a petition calling for Egypt to release political prisoners ahead of the November COP27 summit. Thunberg has said she will not attend the conference in Egypt, saying that representatives from areas most affected by climate change are better spokespeople.

October 27, 2022: Thunberg publishes The Climate Book, which includes essays from more than 100 experts, including scientists, activists and indigenous leaders. Thunberg said proceeds from the book will go to charity.

October 30, 2022: A week before the U.N. COP27 climate summit, Thunberg says it is an opportunity for "greenwashing, lying and cheating" and she will not attend the conference.

November 25, 2022: A group of 600 young people, including Thunberg, file a lawsuit against Sweden for failing to take adequate steps to combat climate change.

December 29, 2022: Internet influencer Andrew Tate is arrested by Romanian police shortly after a viral Twitter spat with Thunberg. Social media users speculate his posts helped reveal his location - though police said they were unrelated.

January 13, 2023: Thunberg joins demonstrators in Germany to protest against the expansion of a lignite coal mine.

January 18, 2023: Thunberg says climate protest is not a crime after she was briefly detained for joining a demo opposing the demolition of a German village to make way for a coal mine.

This article was updated on Jan. 18, 2023 to include the arrest at Lützerath.

(Reporting by Lin Taylor, Sonia Elks and Beatrice Tridimas; Additional reporting by Axelle Rescourio; Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths)


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