Donnachadh McCarthy, The Independent
Why is Extinction Rebellion out on the streets again staging ten days of disruptive climate and nature protection actions in the middle of a pandemic?
The simple answer is because our government is continuing to fail to act with the depth of urgency that the climate and ecological emergencies demand, just like it failed tens of thousands of Britons who needlessly died from COVID-19 by failing to act with the urgency the pandemic demanded in March.
Billions of lives are at risk from climate-related crises, compared to the millions at risk from COVID-19. Failure this time on the climate would mean the end of life as we know it.
Rather than simply declaring a climate and ecological emergency as they did 18 months ago, XR is now demanding parliament pass the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill (CEE Bill), which mandates urgent action.
Whilst Britain is distracted by the pandemic tragedy, the UK Treasury and Bank of England are borrowing hundreds of billions of pounds of COVID-19 recovery funding from future generations and using it to destroy their futures by bailing out the old dirty fossil-fuelled economy and pesticide corporations. It is unconscionable to us in XR that this could pass without major protests.
It has been almost two years since the first XR Rebellion was launched in Parliament Square on an equally sunny October Saturday morning, with speeches from Gail Bradbrook from XR, Greta Thunberg from Fridays for Future and others, calling for mass, peaceful, and direct actions to wake the world up to the depth of the crises and the fact that we have to undertake unprecedented civilisational changes to avert the obliteration of what is left of nature and the destruction of the stable climate upon which we depend.
Little did those gathered there that day or the 15 of us who were arrested for peacefully sitting on the ground outside the entrance to parliament, realise that that day’s protests and arrests would light a fire that zoomed around the world. It led to thousands of arrests globally and a myriad of peaceful, non-violent direct actions that would force the climate and ecological emergencies onto the top of the global media and political agenda.
The UK parliament passed a Climate and Ecological Emergency Declaration,
Thunberg addressed the UN and EU leaders, student strikes packed city centres across the world and for nearly 12 months a flame of hope flickered. Maybe finally our leaders would take the actions necessary to save us and what was left of nature. But as the illumination from the first Extinction Rebellion fireworks started fading, it became clear that the new generation of populist authoritarians led by Trump in the US, Putin in Russia and Bolsonaro in Brazil were determined to continue pouring more fossil fuels onto our burning planet.
The urgent UN COP 26 summit in Glasgow was postponed for a year due to COVID-19, losing another precious year before global action has even a whisper of a chance of being speeded up.
The corporate media returned to promoting high-carbon lifestyles and attacking climate activists, with a little bit of window-dressing in their editorials calling for action by 2050 (i.e. long after they have to pay for it with lost fossil fuelled advertising).
As the host of the next global climate summit COP26, the UK government has a unique moral responsibility at this historical moment to provide the leadership necessary to ensure humanity pulls itself and what is left of nature back from the edge.
The UN secretary general said in 2018 that the world has to start cutting carbon emissions radically by the end of 2020 if we are to avoid an existential crisis. The temporary emission reductions due to the pandemic has given some leeway for next year’s delayed summit.
She will join a hall of fame of Swedish personalities, from Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Greta Garbo, who have been depicted on the country's postage stamps.
Swedish climate activist invested in new eponymous foundation with the prize money from an international award “to promote ecological, climatic and social sustainability as well as mental health.”
Thunberg and Trump were briefly in the same small room as they arrived for the summit, with video showing the teen glowering at the president as he passed by with his entourage.
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