Today, two-and-a-half months after the UK became the first country to officially declare a climate emergency and almost three months after its largest demonstration, climate activist group Extinction Rebellion (XR) took to the streets once again. This time, it was to carry out coordinated demonstrations in five UK cities – Cardiff, Bristol, Leeds, Glasgow and London – causing disruption to traffic and calling on the government to “Act Now” and fight the climate emergency. Each of the protests focused on a different ecological threat, from rising sea levels to crop failure and extreme weather.
In London, XR protestors used a huge blue boat to block the road outside the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand, where they plan to stay all week. I went along to meet some of the campaigners. Now that the government has declared a climate emergency, what should happen next? Spoiler: it doesn't involve a third runway at Heathrow.
“There are too many politicians and people within the business industries that don’t realise, don’t understand and are not connected to the truth of the matter. They’re not seeing the seriousness of the impacts [of climate change] and the destruction that could unfold. [The government] can’t declare a climate emergency and at the same time continue to invest in fossil fuels and produce and sell weapons of mass destruction. Humans need to become more modest in their ways and to do that, we need the government to start taking action and start controlling things in a thoughtful and caring way. We need to listen to the views of the Green party.”
“Actions speak louder than words. It is one thing to declare a climate emergency, it is another to act on them. The UK should act on the climate emergency. Unless they actually act as though the truth is real, they are not doing anything at all.”
“The UK needs to actually act on what they have declared, so they need to stop the third runway at Heathrow and start putting tax on aviation fuel. They need to start investing heavily in renewable energy and remove the blocks from getting onshore wind farms in place. Politicians need to start putting the futures and the lives of their citizens above the profit and self-interests of their fiscal house.”
“Yes, they have declared a climate change emergency which is good, but it’s too far ahead. They’re going for 2050, but we need to do much more before then.”
“The UK has finally declared a state of emergency, but it has not actually done anything about it yet. They have said we’ll go carbon-free by 2050, which according to the IPCC report, is 30 years too late. We need to put pressure on to get more action, quicker. “
“Now that the climate emergency has been declared, we need actual action. The government is still not treating it like an emergency – this is clear with the expansion of Heathrow’s third runway. If people really knew what was happening, there would be public outrage on the streets. The problem with my generation is the nihilism we fall into, like, ‘If the adults aren’t doing anything, what am I meant to do?’ or ‘I’m not even going to be 30 before the world ends’. It’s hard to combat that nihilism at home, but coming out and seeing these demonstrations gives me hope. The government can’t just do it by themselves, we need to prompt them and not shut up about it. Until we start acting like it’s an emergency, let’s not say that the government has called it an emergency.”
“The Houses of Parliament need to focus less on Brexit and more on the climate crisis. XR should go to the Supreme Court and address the issue to them. That would give XR an advantage, and then the Houses of Parliament will have to step up.”
“The UK should be taking radical action. More and more people need to take to the streets to pressure the government into taking actual action.”