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Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg wins France's first Freedom Prize

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A 16-year-old Swedish climate champion has received the first Freedom Prize in France, and has urged people to recognise the link between climate change and "mass migration, famine and war."

Swedish teen climate change activist Greta Thunberg, whose Friday school strikes protesting government inaction over climate change helped spark a worldwide movement, has received the first Freedom Prize in France.

Flanked by two WWII veterans who sponsor the prize, the 16-year-old accepted the award at a ceremony in the northwestern city of Caen, Normandy, on Sunday.

"This prize is not only for me," Greta said. "This is for the whole Fridays for Future movement because this we have achieved together."

Greta Thunberg with D-Day veteran Charles Norman Shay at the 2019 Freedom Award Ceremony.
Greta Thunberg with D-Day veteran Charles Norman Shay at the 2019 Freedom Award Ceremony.
Getty

She said she would donate the AU$28,000 prize money to four organisations working for climate justice and helping areas already affected by climate change.

The prize was awarded before an audience of several hundred people and in the presence of several D-Day veterans, including France's Leon Gautier and US native American Charles Norman Shay. 

Greta said she had spent an unforgettable day with Mr Shay on Omaha Beach, one of the sites of the 1944 Normandy landings that launched the Allied offensive that helped end World War II.

Paying tribute to their sacrifice, she said: "the least we can do to honour them is to stop destroying that same world that Charles, Leon and their friends and colleagues fought so hard to save for us."

Mr Shay said that young people should be prepared to "defend what they believe in."

"As a soldier, I fought for freedom and to liberate Europe and the world from Nazism 75 years ago."

"I'm deeply happy that you and the young generation fight for this noble cause," he told Greta.

Greta backs D-Day veteran call to fight "silent war"

Describing the challenges posed by climate change, Greta said seven million people died from illness related to toxic air pollution every year.

"This is a silent war going on," she said.

"We are currently on track for a world that could displace billions of people from their homes, taking away even the most basic living conditions from countless people, making areas of the world uninhabitable from some part of the year."

At just 16 years old, Greta Thunberg started an international youth movement against climate change.
At just 16 years old, Greta Thunberg started an international youth movement against climate change.
Getty

She said the "link between climate and ecological emergency and mass migration, famine and war was still not clear to many people" and urged change.

The Freedom Prize was set up to honour the values embodied by the Normandy landings. Its winner is chosen by a worldwide online poll of respondents aged between 15 and 25.

Greta beat out two other finalists, Saudi blogger and dissident Raif Badawi and Chinese photojournalist Lu Guang, to become the winner.

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