Greta Thunberg hopes climate strikes will be 'social tipping point'

Teen activist Greta Thunberg's global climate movement "Fridays for Future" began in August 2018 when she started sitting alone outside Sweden's parliament with her now iconic sign reading "school strike for the climate

Teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg told AFP that she hoped Friday's massive worldwide climate strikes would mark a turning point in persuading leaders to take decisive action on global warming.

The 16-year-old described the numbers of people who took to the streets as "unbelievable" -- from Asia-Pacific to Europe and Africa, culminating in New York where a million students have been permitted to skip school.

"You see the pictures of all these people. You can't believe what you are seeing," she said during an interview before the start of the march in US financial capital.

"This is not just because of me," said the Swede, who has spurred teenagers and students around the world to strike from school every Friday under the rallying cry "Fridays for future."

"This is because thousands of local organizers who have spent I don't know how many hours. I'm eternally grateful for what they are doing.

"I hope this will be another social tipping point that we show how many people are engaged, how many people are putting pressure on leaders, especially before this UN climate action summit," she added, referring to Monday's meeting.

Thousands gathered in Manhattan's Foley Square at midday (1600 GMT) to rally the short distance to Battery Park on the tip of the island.

New York authorities gave their blessing to the one million children in over 1,700 schools in the metropolis to miss school for the event.

Children carried placards that read "There Is No Planet B" and "Make The Earth Great Again," a twist on President Donald Trump's rallying cry of "Make America Great Again."

Thunberg is due to attend a summit on zero emissions at the UN headquarters in New York on Monday.

She has become a symbol for climate action since she began sitting outside the Swedish parliament in August 2018 calling for politicians to cut carbon emissions and curb global warming.

Thunberg sailed into the city on a zero-carbon yacht last month after refusing to fly because of the carbon emissions caused by planes.

It took her 15 days to cross the Atlantic.

Thunberg has said she does not yet know how she will return to Europe.