Thunberg leads climate march at Milan youth summit

Milan (AFP) –

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Hundreds of young people led by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg marched in Milan Friday to demand swift climate action a month ahead of the crucial COP26 environmental summit in Glasgow.

The Fridays for Future marches that brought large crowds of youth together in cities across the globe were interrupted by two years of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week it was Berlin that played host to Thunberg, the unofficial leader of a movement that brought millions to the streets across the world in 2019.

"We have to bring attention back to the huge issue that is the climate crisis," 15-year-old Maria told AFP, dressed in a white hazmat suit and green face paint.

"We are so happy to be back in the street," added the Italian teenager, marching under a giant wave made of green cloth.

A few high-profile guests led the front of the parade including Thunberg and Ugandan activist Vanessa Nakate.

Both were in Milan as part of the official UN gathering for the youth version of the COP26, to which 400 young people were invited.

"The world is waking up and change is coming whether you like it or not," read a sign in the crowd.

Other messages included the ever-popular "There's no planet B" or drawings of an ailing Earth with a thermometer in its cartoon mouth crying: "Save me".

Some signs expressed thanks to Thunberg or quoted her infamous "How dare you?" speech at the UN General Assembly that went two years ago.

"There will always be more of us," said German student Frida, 24, who is studying in Italy. "It shows that the climate matters to a lot of people."

The march took place as ministers from several dozen countries gathered for meetings to prepare the COP26 summit.

At their first session the day before, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres once again called for urgent action to limit global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels -- the most ambitious goal of the Paris accord.

More than 400 delegates were invited to participated in the youth climate summit this week in Milan
More than 400 delegates were invited to participated in the youth climate summit this week in Milan MIGUEL MEDINA AFP

"I cannot emphasise enough that time is running out. Irreversible climate tipping points lie alarmingly close," Guterres told the ministers.

"We can either save our world or condemn humanity to a hellish future."