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

Climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks on the Pyramid stage at Worthy Farm in Somerset during the Glastonbury Festival in Britain, June 25, 2022. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
explainer

Climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks on the Pyramid stage at Worthy Farm in Somerset during the Glastonbury Festival in Britain, June 25, 2022. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

What’s the context?

As the Swedish teenager promotes her new book on climate change, here's how she built the global "Fridays for Future" movement

LONDON - Swedish campaigner Greta Thunberg has taken a step back from the front lines of climate action, most recently to work on her latest project, The Climate Book.

Despite drawing crowds at last year’s climate summit, Thunberg told the BBC she will not attend this year’s COP27 in Egypt and that hope for action should not rest on “burned out teenagers’ shoulders”.

As she promotes her new book, Thunberg has continued to campaign from the sidelines, calling out Germany over its plans to prioritise coal over nuclear power and accusing Britain of failing to step up to its potential as a climate action leader.

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Here is a timeline of Thunberg's rise from a solo climate striker to a leading global campaigner against the inequities exposed by the climate and ecological crises and the COVID-19 pandemic:

August 20, 2018: Swedish student Thunberg, then 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.

June 5, 2020: Thunberg and Fridays For Future launch a crowdfunding campaign to help communities in Brazil's Amazon rainforest during the COVID-19 crisis.

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 said 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 said 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.

March 31, 2022: Thunberg announces she is releasing a book with essays and contributions from over 100 experts, including scientists, activists, and indigenous leaders. The Climate Book is set to be released in October.

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: The Climate Book, coined an essential resource for climate action, hits bookstores. Thunberg has said proceeds from the book will go to charity.

This article was updated on October 27, to include developments in Thunberg's book publication.


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Youth climate movement
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