TIMELINE-Greta Thunberg’s rise from unknown activist to Time Person of the Year

Climate change activist Greta Thunberg attends a news conference during COP25 climate summit in Madrid, Spain, December 9, 2019. REUTERS/Juan Medina
Climate change activist Greta Thunberg attends a news conference during COP25 climate summit in Madrid, Spain, December 9, 2019. REUTERS/Juan Medina

Greta Thunberg, who has inspired a global movement for climate change, has been named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2019 – the latest accolade for her work

By Sonia Elks

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who has inspired a global movement for climate change, has been named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2019 – the latest accolade for her work.

Time editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal said the 16-year-old had become “the biggest voice on the biggest issue facing the planet — and the avatar of a broader generational shift in our culture”.

Here is a timeline of Thunberg’s rise from an unknown, solo campaigner to the leader of a global movement:

August 20, 2018: Swedish student Thunberg, then aged 15, skips school to protest outside parliament for more action against climate change.

August 26, 2018: She is joined by fellow students, teachers, and parents at another protest and begins attracting media attention for her climate campaign.

September 2018: Thunberg begins a regular ‘strike’ from classes every Friday to protest climate issues. She invites other students to join her weekly “Fridays for Future” campaign by staging walkouts at their own schools.

November 2018: More than 17,000 students in 24 countries take part in Friday school strikes. Thunberg begins speaking at high-profile events across Europe, including U.N. climate talks in Poland.

March 2019: Thunberg is nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. The number of students taking part in school strikes hits more than 2 million people across 135 countries.

May 2019: Thunberg is named one of the world’s most influential people by Time magazine, appearing on its cover. “Now I am speaking to the whole world,” she wrote on Twitter.

July 2019: Conservative and far-right lawmakers urge a boycott of Thunberg’s appearance in the French parliament, mocking her as a “guru of the apocalypse” and a “Nobel prize of fear”.

August 5, 2019: Some 450 young climate activists from 37 European countries gather in Switzerland to discuss the movement’s development.

August 2019: Thunberg, who refuses to fly, sails from Britain to the United States in a zero-emissions boat to take part in a U.N. climate summit. Meanwhile, the number of climate strikers reaches 3.6 million people across 169 countries.

September 23, 2019: Thunberg delivers a blistering speech to leaders at the U.N. summit, accusing them of having “stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words”.

September 25, 2019: Thunberg is named as one of four winners of the 2019 Right Livelihood Award, known as Sweden’s alternative Nobel Prize.

October 4, 2019: Thunberg denounces the New York climate talks as “a failure” but urges supporters to keep pushing for change at a climate strike in Iowa.

October 11, 2019: Despite being bookies’ favourite to win, Thunberg misses out of the Nobel Peace Prize which goes to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

November 2019: Caught out by a last-minute switch of location for U.N. climate talks from Chile to Spain, Thunberg hitches a ride on a catamaran boat crossing back to Europe.

December 11, 2019: Thunberg denounces “clever accounting and creative PR” to mask a lack of real action on climate change in a speech at the U.N. COP25 summit as the 16-year-old became the youngest individual to be Time Magazine’s person of the year.


(Reporting by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Claire Cozens. Credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation)