Extinction Rebellion: Reaction in Bristol as ‘environment and climate emergency’ motion passed

Environmental campaigners are celebrating in Bristol as parliament approved a motion to declare an “environment and climate emergency”, becoming the first government in the world to do so.

However, campaign group Extinction Rebellion is warning that systemic change is needed if both the UK and Bristol are to reach their zero net carbon emissions targets.

Last year, Bristol City Council became the first UK council to declare a climate emergency.  A motion was proposed by Green Councillor, Carla Denya, to declare a climate emergency and become carbon neutral by 2030, which was unanimously backed by Councillors from all parties.

Since then, over 70 other UK local authorities have followed suit by passing similar motions, including the London Assembly.  In April, Bristol University became the first UK University to declare a climate emergency.

Reaction to motion

News of the decision in parliament reached Bristol’s Extinction Rebellion weekly meeting in the Malcolm X Community Centre, where over 300 people had gathered.

“The reaction was electric,”  said Dave Brakes,  Media Co-ordinator for Extinction Rebellion, Bristol.

“We were just starting the meeting when we heard that the motion was passed in parliament without any resistance whatsoever.  The whole place just erupted with applause and cheering.”

The environmental campaign group has seen its membership grow four-fold in the eleven days in April, when protesters blocked roads in Central London.

Around 400 members of Bristol’s Extinction Rebellion block Oxford Circus

Describing himself as “slightly nervous” and “not a natural activist”, Dave explained that the police were already set up when Bristol environmental campaigners arrived at Oxford Circus.

“We didn’t have to block the roads, the police were already there with diversion signs.  I was there for a week.  There were lots of them, there were lots of us.  They wanted us to move, we were going to stay.  There were a few heavy handed incidents, but on the whole it was very friendly.  We even told them we loved them!”  he said.

“But we need to keep the pressure on our local and government to harness the exposure we’ve had in the past few months.  It’s really important to push things forward and get the change happening that we need.” Dave said.

Extinction Rebellion are calling on Bristol City Council to create a citizens assembly.  This is when a group of people, selected in a similar way to a jury, come together to oversee the commitments made by Bristol City Council towards becoming carbon zero by 2030.

Bristol’s youth movement: stop airport expansion

Bristol’s young people are also taking action.  Another strike is being organised by Youth Strike for Climate Bristol on 24 May, to protest against the expansion of Bristol Airport.

Eleanor Bird, aged 13 from Southville, is inspired by Greta Thurberg who is leading an international youth movement.  Along with hundreds of other Bristol school children, Eleanor has skipped school to show her concerns about the lack of action by politicians.

Eleanor Bird, aged 13, on college green as part of the Youth Strike 4 Climate school strikes

“If we don’t act now then we don’t  know what our future will be like and we don’t know what’s going to happen.” said Eleanor.

“We’re told to stay in school to prepare for the future, but we might not have a future to prepare for.  It’s our responsibility to make a change and no-one is going to do that for us.   We’re the last generation that can do anything about this, so if we don’t there is no hope.” she said.

Parents bring their children to on college green demanding action on climate change.

Strikes were held on College Green in February, March and April.  Young people are also calling for a lowering of the voting age to 16.

Committee on Climate Change report

This week, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) report, is recommending to the government that the UK set a new target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.   The report says that policies will have to change significantly for a a ‘net-zero’ emissions target to be credible, but the overall costs of the transition to a net-zero economy are manageable.

“This is an emergency and it’s not enough to talk about the climate – we have to do something about it.  Greens are clear that ‘business as usual’ just doesn’t cut it.” said Bristol Green Leader Councillor, Eleanor Combley.

“Declaring an emergency means acting like it and we need nothing less than a radical rethink of the way our society and economy works. We have to stop putting profit before people and planet now – before it’s too late.” she said.

Adopting the International Panel on Climate Change report (IPCC)

Bristol’s MPs Darren Jones (Bristol North West), Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) and Thangham Debonnaire (Bristol West) are part of a large group of cross-party MPs calling for action.

The group is urging Theresa May to recognise the recommendations in the IPCC report into climate change and to adopt a zero net emissions target before 2050.

The UN reported in October in the IPCC report that drastic action needs to be taken to reduce current levels of warming.  The world is currently on course for a 3°C warming.

The IPCC is the leading body for assessing the science related to climate change, its impacts and potential future risks and possible response options.

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