'Speak up and hold adults accountable,' says Greta Thunberg on receiving the Freedom Prize

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By Sinead Barry  with AP
Greta Thunberg at the Fridays for Future protest in Berlin
Greta Thunberg at the Fridays for Future protest in Berlin   -   Copyright  REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

"Young people should speak up and hold adults accountable in the combat against climate change," said activist Greta Thunberg on receipt of Normandy's first Freedom Prize.

The Swedish environmentalist was awarded the prize in Caen, northern France, on Sunday. Thunberg posed alongside WWII veterans Charles Norman Shay and Léon Gautier, who commemorated the 75th anniversary of D-Day last month.

“I think the least we can do to honour them is to stop destroying that same world that Charles, Leon and their friends and colleagues fought so hard to save,” said the 16-year-old Thunberg.

The environmental activist is due to speak at the French National Assembly on Tuesday but some MPs are boycotting the event.

“We don't need apocalyptic gurus to fight climate change intelligently,” said Guillaume Larrivé, presidential candidate of French conservative party Les Républicains.

His words were echoed by other politicians. Republican Julien Aubert lashed out at Thunberg, satirically naming her the "prophetess in shorts” and “the winner of the Nobel fear prize”.

Many believe that these politicians and their supporters are overly harsh on the young activist, who has become one of the leading faces of the combat against climate change worldwide.

Thunberg emerged in the public eye last August when she began skipping school to sit outside the Swedish parliament building demanding government action against climate change. Her strike inspired millions of other students to join the movement and hold adults accountable for their inaction.

"We are currently on track for a world that could displace billions of people from their homes, taking away even the most basic living conditions ... making areas of the world uninhabitable for parts of the year...We can still fix this," she said in Caen.