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Saturday 19 October 2019

'Why would you want to slag her off?' - Taoiseach Leo Varadkar defends Greta Thunberg after Donald Trump jibe

Greta Thunberg watches Donald Trump (AP/PA)
Greta Thunberg watches Donald Trump (AP/PA)
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has defended teenage Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg after US President Donald Trump mocked her contribution to the UN Climate Action Summit. 

Mr Varadkar said Ms Thunberg is "trying to make the world a better pace" and added: "why would you want to slag her off."

Ms Thunberg delivered an impassioned speech where she was scathing in her criticism of world leaders repeatedly berating them with the phrase "how dare you".

She told them: “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and yet all you can talk about is money. You are failing us.”

Read more: 'You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words' - Greta Thunberg criticises world leaders at UN climate summit

Mr Trump took to Twitter last night, replying to a video of her speech and writing in an apparent sarcastic dig: ""She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!"

Mr Varadkar was asked about Mr Trump's intervention at a press conference in New York today.

He said: "I think she's a really passionate person who has inspired young people across the world.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks during the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit. Photo: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks during the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit. Photo: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Watch: Greta Thunberg’s glare at Donald Trump goes viral

"I know sometimes people are critical of her but the bottom line is, she's a 16 year old girl who's trying to make the world a better place and why would you want to slag her off?"

Speaking yesterday, the teenager - who travelled to the US by yacht to avoid flying - said she should not be up on stage, but should be in school on the other side of the ocean.

She told the gathered politicians she did not believe they understood the situation, because if they did and continued to fail to act, they would be "evil" and she refused to believe that.

The teenager set out the scale of the challenge in cutting emissions to keep temperature rises to 1.5C, beyond which scientists have warned the impacts of climate change become much more severe - warning that at current rates, the remaining budget for emissions would be used up in eight-and-a-half years.

And she warned that the situation could not be solved by "business as usual" and some technological solutions.

"The eyes of all future generations are on you. If you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you."

Greta Thunberg at the UN. Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty
Greta Thunberg at the UN. Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty

She added: "Right now, right here is where we draw the line. The world is waking up, change is coming, whether you like it or not."

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres, who convened the summit to urge increased action on tackling emissions, welcomed the young people who have been protesting over climate change.

"My generation has failed in its responsibility to protect our planet. That must change. The climate crisis is caused by us, and the solutions must come from us."

Strong message: German Chancellor Angela Merkel talks to climate activist Greta Thunberg during her visit to the UN. Photo: Steffen Seibert/Bundesregierung/Handout via REUTERS
Strong message: German Chancellor Angela Merkel talks to climate activist Greta Thunberg during her visit to the UN. Photo: Steffen Seibert/Bundesregierung/Handout via REUTERS

He said the world had the tools, the technology and the imperative, provided by "undeniable and irrefutable" science, and said tackling emissions would deliver other benefits in areas such as health, food security and equality.

Mr Guterres said: "There's a cost to everything but the biggest cost of all is doing nothing, the biggest cost is subsidising a dying fossil fuel industry, building more and more coal plants, and denying what is plain as day: we are in a big climate hole and to get out, we must first stop digging."

While he said the climate emergency was a race the world was losing, it is a race that could be won, and urged leaders to "lace up our running shoes and win the climate race for us all".

The UN estimates there needs to be between a three-fold and five-fold increase in efforts to cut greenhouse gases, to prevent global temperatures rising more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

The climate action summit in New York aimed to galvanise efforts by countries and businesses to close the gap between what is needed to curb global warming and current policies, which put the world on track to warm by more than 3C.

Antonio Guterres (Richard Drew/AP))
Antonio Guterres (Richard Drew/AP))

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