Climate activist Greta Thunberg will use eco-friendly yacht to sail to New York for UN summit

Rozina Sabur
The Swedish teenager's social media-savvy brand of eco-activism has inspired tens of thousands of students - AP

Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenage climate activist who prompted a global movement, will embark on a two-week journey from the UK to the US on a high-tech racing yacht next month in order to attend a UN climate summit without resorting to plane travel. 

The 16-year-old, whose campaign inspired tens of thousands of students in Europe to skip classes to protest for faster action against climate change, refuses to travel by air because of the high greenhouse gas emissions it produces. 

She has spent months looking for a way to travel to the September summit without using planes or cruise ships.

Finally, on Monday, she tweeted: “Good news!... I’ve been offered a ride on the 60ft racing boat Malizia II.” 

She will leaving the UK in mid-August on the high-speed yacht, which was built to race around the globe.

The yacht is owned by property developer Gerhard Senft and sponsored by the Yacht Club de Monaco, which said it was “honoured" to sail Miss Thunberg "emission-free over the Atlantic”. 

The boat is fitted with solar panels and underwater turbines to generate zero-carbon electricity on-board.  

Greta Thunberg will leave the UK in mid-August on the Malizia II Credit: Twitter/@GretaThunberg

Miss Thunberg will be accompanied on the journey by a filmmaker; her father Svante and Pierre Casiraghi, the grandson of Monaco's late Prince Rainier III and American actress Grace Kelly.

The average return flight from Heathrow airport to New York's JFK produces around 1.82 tonnes of CO2 per passenger, according to some carbon calculators.

But Miss Thunberg says her Atlantic voyage is not about her "saying that people should stop flying... I'm just saying it needs to be easier to be climate neutral."

Since making headlines with her school strikes in 2018, Miss Thunberg has met with the business and political leaders of several countries and even Pope Francis, who encouraged her to continue campaigning. 

The teenager plans to take a year off from school to keep raising awareness of climate change and pressuring world leaders to step up efforts to curb global warming. 

Aside from attending the UN Climate Action Summit hosted by Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, on September 23, Miss Thunberg plans to take part in several climate protests in New York. 

She then intends to travel by train and bus to the annual UN climate conference in December, held this year in Chile, with stops in Canada, Mexico and other countries along the way.

"This past year, my life has turned upside down," she told the Associated Press. "Every day is an adventure, basically. Sometimes I have to pinch myself and say 'Is this really real? Has this actually been happening?' Because it has all happened so fast and it's hard to keep up with everything.

"In a way, I am more optimistic [about climate change], because people are slowly waking up and people are becoming more aware of the situation," she said. "But also ... one year has passed and still almost nothing has happened."

Miss Thunberg said she is unsure how her message will be received in the US, where President Donald Trump has already pulled America out of  the landmark 2015 Paris climate accord and rolled back environmental regulations.

Miss Thunberg did not rule out meeting with Mr Trump, but appeared doubtful such an encounter would happen because it would be "just a waste of time."

"As it looks now, I don't think so, because I have nothing to say to him," she said. "He obviously doesn't listen to the science and the scientists. So why should I, a child with no proper education, be able to convince him?"