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.
In turn I was inspired by a handful in other countries – Darebin Australia, Berkeley CA, Hoboken NJ…
— Carla Denyer (@carla_denyer) 2 May 2019
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.”
When I got to Parliament I was sceptical . When I left there was hope . I got home to find that the UK are the first country to declare a Climate and Environment Emergency . Now that’s history in the making @ExtinctionR @SueHayman1 – and for once I’m pleased to say I told you so https://t.co/C1y15UsPxS
— Chris Packham (@ChrisGPackham) 1 May 2019
The environmental campaign group has seen its membership grow four-fold in the eleven days in April, when protesters blocked roads in Central London.
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.
@ExtinctionR protesters stop the traffic. Oxford Circus, London. #London #protest #extinctionrebellion #extinctionrebellionlondon #climatechange #Londoner #londonlife #photojournalism #reportage #leica #leicax2 #leicacamera #magnumphotos #documentary pic.twitter.com/K6yQuZYxvB
— James Sebright (@jamessebright) 27 April 2019
“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
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) 29 April 2019
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.
“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.
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)
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.
I will keep asking the same question until the government takes this seriously. This is the second time this week I have asked the Climate Change Minister to recognise that we are living through a climate emergency and to take real action to address it. Our planet can’t wait. pic.twitter.com/lJ8EqOuUj3
— Thangam Debbonaire (@ThangamMP) April 25, 2019
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.