Climate activist Greta Thunberg is leading a major protest in Madrid Friday evening, as UN leaders and decision-makers congregate in the Spanish capital for the COP25 UN climate summit.
The COP25 Summit is being billed as a run-up to the COP26 in Scotland next year, when all the countries in the Paris Agreement are expected to state or update their national climate targets.
But Thunberg arrived in Madrid on Friday morning to pressure the decision-makers to take concrete action now. Tens of thousands of protesters are expected to join her on the streets this evening.
"COP25 is being seen as something like a middle year. The big event is COP26 next year, but we cannot afford middle years, we cannot afford any more days passing without action. The COP25 is not something we can ignore. Every chance we get to improve the situation, we must take," she said in a press conference on Friday.
At the press conference, Thunberg was joined by other young climate activists from Spain and Uganda.
The activists criticized widespread inaction by government leaders. Thunberg said although public awareness has risen around the issue, "nothing has been done in the last year," pointing out that C02 emissions are set to rise 0.6% in 2019.
"It’s clear that the movement is getting a lot of media attention, but the problem is we’ve been marching for a year and they’ve only declared a climate emergency. It’s more than just words, promises or declarations, we have to take specific measures otherwise we won’t get anywhere," said Shari Crespi, a Spanish youth activist with Fridays for Future.
They also criticized the corporate sponsorship of the UN event, which included adverts from Spanish energy companies, as well as from Coca-Cola, Facebook, Google and Ikea.
"They’re just trying to cover up their mess and brainwash us and blind us," said Vanessa Nakate, a member of the Fridays for Future in Uganda.
Fridays for Future was started by Thunberg when she skipped school every Friday to protest climate inaction at the Swedish Parliament. It has now turned into a massive global movement.
"It’s not the sustainable solution for children to skip school. We don’t want to continue, we would love some action from the people in power. People are suffering from the ecological emergency today and we cannot wait any longer," said Thunberg.
The 16-year-old activist has been criticized by people ranging from U.S. President Donald Trump to far-right politicians in Spain.
"Change is what we young people are bringing and they are trying to silence us," she said.
By Alyssa McMurtry in Madrid