Hundreds of Extinction Rebellion (XR) supporters took part in non-violent direct action on 1 May over the lack of progress on the climate crisis. Many were arrested as sit down protests blocked major roads in many towns and cities across the UK, including London, Birmingham, Nottingham, Oxford, Cambridge, Bradford, Newcastle, and Swansea.
Home Secretary Priti Patel accused them of using “dangerous tactics” and said the protests showed why increased police powers were required, via passing the Tory Police Bill.
In Nottingham a Climate Camp has been set up outside the Notts County Hall, by Trent Bridge. At the camp Sheila and Kristian told me: “XR are camping here ahead of the County Council elections to draw attention to the council’s lack of action over climate change. Their pension fund is one of the worst offenders in terms of levels of investment in fossil fuels. They have ignored the science and pleas by residents and XR to invest in renewables, supporting a new sustainable economy.
“We are at a critical time in the world, getting nearer to more and more tipping points being reached”.
Several people were arrested on at least four major roads across the county. XR activist Etienne said: “Today is the second anniversary of the UK Parliament declaring a climate emergency. There has been close to zero action since then. These people have decided to sit in the road. It’s incredibly brave and very moving”.
XR has been at the forefront of the campaign to persuade councils to declare climate emergencies. Now most councils, along with most universities, etc., have committed to going carbon neutral by 2030, a shift that was unheard of 2 or 3 years ago. Many good initiatives like wind turbines, geothermal projects, hydrogen transport (or, in Nottingham, wireless charging at taxi ranks) have been made, but cuts by the central government make progress totally inadequate.
Sarah Lunnon of XR said: “Local authorities are being decimated, struggling to maintain mandatory front line services. The Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) Bill if passed would require immediate action, providing the framework to create a national transition strategy enabling local governments to meet the aspirations of their residents”.
It is good that XR is pushing for more action after a year in which the youth climate strikes movement, Labour Parties, trade unions and others have been very quiet over the last year.
XR strategy, though, is severely limited, focusing on the CEE Bill as the solution to the climate emergency. 31 local authorities and over 100 MPs are backing it as a “private member’s bill”. Local Nottingham MP Nadia Whittome is a co-sponsor. If passed, the CEE Bill would make much increased demands on the government to act.
But this Tory government has a large majority. Without much greater pressure, they can fob off the Bill and respond to protests by increasing repression.