Sixteen-year-old climate action leader Greta Thunberg stood alongside European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker Thursday in Brussels as he indicated—after weeks of climate strikes around the world inspired by the Swedish teenager—that the European Union has heard the demands of young people and pledged billions of dollars over the next seven years to address the crisis of a rapidly heating planet.
In the financial period beginning in 2021, Juncker said, the EU will devote a quarter of its budget to solving the crisis.
“Every fourth euro spent within the EU budget will go towards action to mitigate climate change,” Juncker said. With the EU’s annual budget equalling about €1 trillion, the plan will amount to more than $250 billion spent over seven years, according to Reuters.
Juncker’s comments came at the Civil Society for rEUnaissance event in Brussels, where Thunberg doubled down on her consistent message that politicians must take serious strides to stop the climate crisis and protect the Earth for future generations—and that the EU must double its target of cutting greenhouse gases by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2030.
“This target is not sufficient to protect the future for children growing up today. If the EU is to make its fair contribution to stay within the carbon budget for the 2C limit then it needs a minimum of 80 percent reduction by 2030, and that includes aviation and shipping,” Thunberg told political and business leaders. “There is simply not enough time to wait for us to grow up and become the ones in charge.”
Juncker was among those who praised the tireless advocacy of Thunberg and others of her generation, hundreds of thousands of whom have captured the attention of the world—and their governments—by staging weekly climate strikes since December.
“I am glad to see that young people are taking to the streets in Europe to raise visibility of the issue of climate change,” the Commission president said.
Supporters of the climate strike movement—which Thunberg began last year with a one-person strike at the Swedish Parliament, and which has grown into a global movement with students all over the world planning events—also gave Thunberg credit for leading the pressure campaign.
As Juncker was announcing the proposal, more than 12,000 students were marching through Brussels and other Belgian cities once again, demanding that political leaders take seriously the warning of climate scientists and experts, who say if carbon emissions aren’t cut drastically, humans will not be able to keep the warming of the globe under 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2030. If urgent action not taken, they warn, the result will include disastrous sea level rise, more extreme weather events, increasing humanitarian crises, species loss, threatened water supplies, and untold economic costs.
“Unite behind the science, that is our demand,” Thunberg told a plenary session of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) Thursday.