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'Our biggest compliment yet': Greta Thunberg thanks OPEC for criticism

Key Points
  • "Thank you!" Thunberg said Thursday in response to thinly-veiled criticism from a prominent fossil fuel leader.
  • The 16-year-old was catapulted to fame for skipping school every Friday to hold a weekly vigil outside Swedish parliament last year.
  • OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo reportedly said that "unscientific" attacks by climate activists were "perhaps the greatest threat to our industry going forward."
Greta Thunberg speaks at an event with other climate activists on April 22, 2019 in London, England.
Chris J Ratcliffe | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg has welcomed criticism from OPEC's secretary general, describing it as the "biggest compliment yet" to a growing movement of young protesters demanding action over climate change.

"Thank you!" Thunberg said Thursday in response to thinly-veiled criticism from a prominent fossil fuel leader.

"Our biggest compliment yet!"

Thunberg was catapulted to fame for skipping school every Friday to hold a weekly vigil outside Swedish parliament last year.

Protesting against political inaction over climate change, the 16-year-old sparked an international wave of school strikes — also known as "Fridays for Future" — with millions of other children following suit in cities around the world.

Earlier this week, energy ministers from the world's most powerful oil-producing nations met in Austria to thrash out a deal restricting the amount of crude flowing into the global market.

Speaking in Vienna shortly after a meeting of the oil producers' club and its allied partners on Tuesday, OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo reportedly said that "unscientific" attacks by climate activists were "perhaps the greatest threat to our industry going forward."

Barkindo told AFP that as extreme weather events linked to climate change became more common, there seemed to be a "growing mass mobilization of world opinion … against oil."

OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo
Source: OPEC

He added children of some colleagues at OPEC's headquarters "are asking us about their future because… they see their peers on the streets campaigning against our industry."

OPEC's secretary general did not mention any group specifically, but his comments appeared to refer to the recent wave of school strikes inspired by Thunberg's "Friday's for Future" movement.

Barkindo said that the "mobilization" against oil was beginning to "dictate policies and corporate decisions, including investment in the industry."

"We believe this industry is part of the solution to the scourge of climate change," he told AFP.

UN warning

Last year, global carbon emissions climbed to a record high, despite a warning from a United Nations report in October that output of the gases will have to be slashed over the next 12 years to stabilize the climate.

OPEC's mission is to "ensure the stabilization of oil markets in order to secure an efficient, economic and regular supply of petroleum to consumers, a steady income to producers and a fair return on capital for those investing in the petroleum industry."

Barkindo's reported comments prompted Bill McKibben, a climate activist for over 30 years who runs the climate advocacy organization 350.org, to tweet: "Wow! Wow! Wow! … Thanks everyone for your good work!"

Thunberg's "Fridays for Future" movement won Amnesty International's Ambassador of Conscience Award last month, following in the footsteps of South African leader Nelsen Mandela and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai.