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Young activists meet Merkel to press case for climate action

BERLIN (AP) – Young activists, including Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, are meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel to press their demands for tougher action to curb climate change.

Thunberg, Luisa Neubauer from Germany and Belgians Anuna de Wever van der Heyden and Adélaïde Charlier were accompanied by a handful of climate protesters as they arrived at the chancellery for a 90-minute meeting Thursday, the first high-profile talks the youth activists have held with a world leader since the start of the pandemic.

“We are here, we are loud, because our future’s being stolen,” the protesters chanted as Thunberg was mobbed by photographers.

The 17-year-old shot to fame after starting her solo protests outside the Swedish parliament two years ago. Students around the world began following her lead, staging regular large protests, and Thunberg was invited to speak to political and business leaders at U.N. conferences and the annual World Economic Forum in Davos.

But the coronavirus outbreak has prevented the Fridays for Future movement that Thunberg inspired from holding its mass rallies in recent months, dampening its public profile.

The activists sought a meeting with Merkel because Germany currently holds the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union, which together with Britain accounts for 22% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Merkel has in the past lauded the youth activists for putting pressure on politicians to act against global warming.

Climate campaigners argue that governments around the world are doing too little to curb the emissions that are heating up the atmosphere. In a letter sent to world leaders last month, Thunberg and others called for numerous measures including ending financing for oil and gas projects and setting binding annual carbon budgets.

Merkel’s spokeswoman, Ulrike Demmer, said Wednesday that the German government recently agreed to to cut emissions by up to 55% over the coming decade compared with 1990 levels. It also backs plans for an EU Green Deal and for making Europe the first “climate neutral” continent by 2050.

“The subject (of climate change) is an issue of central importance for the entire German government,” Demmer said. “As such, an exchange with (the activists) is certainly beneficial.”

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