Teen activist Greta Thunberg says she was “a bit surprised” to be named Time’s Person of the Year, despite becoming the figurehead of a global youth movement pressing for faster action climate change.
Leaving a U.N. climate conference in Madrid, Thunberg told The Associated Press on Wednesday that she wanted to dedicate the award to all young activists. She is now planning to head home to Sweden for some rest during the holidays. The 16-year-old said: “If you don’t take breaks, you won’t be able to continue.”
Thunberg said she was hopeful that the message being pushed by her and other activists — that governments need to drastically increase their efforts to combat climate change — is finally getting through.
Teenage Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg was named Time’s youngest “person of the year” on Wednesday.
Thunberg, 16, has become the face of the youth climate movement, drawing large crowds with her appearances at protests and conferences over the past year and a half. Some have welcomed her activism, including her speeches challenging world leaders to do more to stop global warming. But others have criticized her sometimes combative tone.
“For sounding the alarm about humanity’s predatory relationship with the only home we have, for bringing to a fragmented world a voice that transcends backgrounds and borders, for showing us all what it might look like when a new generation leads, Greta Thunberg is TIME’s 2019 Person of the Year,” the media franchise said Wednesday on its website.
Thunberg was in Madrid on Wednesday, where she addressed negotiators at the U.N.’s COP25 climate talks.
Last year’s Time winners included slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi; the staff of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, where five people were shot to death; Philippine journalist Maria Ressa; and two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo.