Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, whose lone school strike has morphed into a global movement holding world leaders to account, has been named Time Person of the Year for 2019.
The US magazine, which wrote a lengthy profile of Thunberg, praised her for succeeding in “creating a global attitudinal shift, transforming millions of vague, middle-of-the-night anxieties into a worldwide movement calling for urgent change”.
“She has offered a moral clarion call to those who are willing to act, and hurled shame on those who are not,” it added.
The magazine has handed out the annual distinction since 1927 which recognises the person who “for better or for worse … has done the most to influence the events of the year”.
Thunberg, 16, joins the likes of world leaders including Donald Trump, Barack Obama, and Angela Merkel as well as innovators such as Mark Zuckerberg and Mark Bezos and humanitarians and whistleblowers including Ebola fighters and sexual harassment figureheads.
The teenager described the news as “unbelievable.”
“I share this great honour with everyone in the Fridays For Future movement and climate activists everywhere,” she added.
Al Gore, a former US Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, welcomed the latest decision as “brilliant”.
“Greta embodies the moral authority of the youth activist movement demanding that we act immediately to solve the climate crisis. She is an inspiration to me and to people across the world,” he wrote on Twitter.
UNICEF has described the magazine’s decision as “well-deserved recognition”
Among those who criticised the move was Donald Trump Junior, who tweeted: “Time leaves out the Hong Kong protesters fighting for their lives and freedoms to push a teen being used as a marketing gimmick”.
Since first striking on her own in August 2018, Thunberg has travelled across Europe and North America, addressing parliaments along the way. She has also joined many of the Fridays For Future (“School strike”) protest she has inspired and which have gathered hundreds of thousands around the world.
In a speech delivered at the United Nations General Assembly in September, the activist accused world leaders of having “stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words”, adding: “How dare you!”
She is currently attending the COP25 meeting in Madrid, Spain, where she renewed her attack on the world’s powerful, describing their efforts to tackle the climate emergency as “clever accounting and creative PR”.