Extinction Rebellion climate protests spread across UK

Demonstrators disrupt five UK cities calling for legal recognition of ‘ecocide’ as an international crime.


Hazel Shearing / BuzzFeed News

London – As activists erected the mast of a boat emblazonedwith “act now”, hundred of climate change protesters gathered in front of the vessel blocking traffic on The Strand, one of the UK capital’s major arteries.

A similar boat, now a symbol of the Extinction Rebellion protests, blocked Piccadilly Circus in April when the climate activist group brought much of London to a standstill for 10 days.

The group kicked off a new round of demonstrations across the UK on Monday targeting five cities – London, Glasgow, Cardiff, Bristol and Leeds – with creative and civil disobedience action through to Friday.

They aim to cause disruption to raise awareness of the climate crisis and urge the government to enact policy measures aimed at achieving a net-zero carbon footprint by 2025. Action in each city focuses on a different theme, including “climate refugees” and rising sea levels.

In London, protesters at the Royal Court of Justice demanded the “legal system take responsibility in this crisis” and called for “ecocide” to become an internationally recognised crime.

“At the moment, the damage and destruction to our planet that continues day by day does so because it’s permitted,” Jojo Mehta, director of a campaign called “Stop ecocide: change the law”, told Al Jazeera.

Mehta, a longtime environmental activist, cofounded the campaign with Polly Higgins, a lawyer who died of cancer in April after spending a decade calling for ecological damage to be criminalised, so governments and corporations that are responsible could be held to account.

‘An achievable route’

She said such criminalisation could be “straightforward” at the international level. It would require an amendment to the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the International Criminal Court, adding ecocide to a list of existing international crimes.

“Any head of state that is a member, no matter how small, can propose an amendment to the Rome Statute, and there’s no veto to that,” Mehta explained.

“Once it’s tabled, it’s just a question of adding signatures. It’s an achievable route,” she added, before being called on board the boat, named after her friend, to deliver a speech.

Extinction rebellion protest [Ylenia Gostoli]
Extinction Rebellion protesters block The Strand in central London [Ylenia Gostoli/Al Jazeera]

As performers and speakers hit an improvised stage, some activists made banners while others glued their arms together, linking their hands with a black tube symbolising an oil pipe. Five police vans were positioned on the road nearby, blocking their route to Waterloo Bridge.

Following Extinction Rebellion’s previous round of climate protests, the UK Parliament declared a “climate emergency”, passing a non-legally binding motion tabled by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

In June, the UK was the first country to commit to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 – either by avoiding emissions or offsetting them with projects aimed at soaking up carbon dioxide. But Extinction Rebellion called this target too little, too late. MORE

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As Systems Collapse, People Rise: Seven Faces of an Emerging Global Movement


clockwise, from top left: Extinction Rebellion, Greta Thunberg, Fridays for Future, Sunrise movement

There is a new global movement awakening across the planet. The Fridays For Future (FFF) movement inspired by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg has brought millions of high school students to the streets this year. The grassroots Extinction Rebellion (XR) founded in the UK last year aims to mobilize non-violent climate action worldwide. And in the United States, Sunrise, a youth-led movement that advocates political action on climate change, teamed up with U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (aka AOC) and effectively changed the conversation by proposing the Green New Deal. With the partial exception of Sunrise, most of these movements and their events have largely been ignored by the U.S. media. More important, hardly any of the reporting explicitly acknowledges these movements as expressions of a larger shift in consciousness globally, in particular among young people.

The emerging wave of youth movements in 2019 differs from the 1968 student movement in a variety of ways. One, the key figures are young women, not young men. Two, they are arguing for a change in consciousness, not just for a change in ideology. Three, they are intentionally collaborating with earlier generations, not just fighting against them. And four, they are using technology in intentional and new ways. In this column, I describe seven “faces” or aspects of this shift in global awareness and the youth-led movement that is taking shape now.

1. The Decline of the Far Right

The recent election of the EU parliament, which is the only directly elected supranational body in the world, was remarkable in a number of ways. In comparison with the 2014 election, voter turnout was up by a significant margin (following a steady drop over the previous two decades), and the widely anticipated success of the far-right parties in Europe was a no-show. All the far-right parties could muster was a 5% increase, from 20% to 25% of the votes. To be sure, 25% is still a lot. But it’s much less than projected in almost every country, including Hungary (where Viktor Orban failed to reach his declared objective of a two-thirds majority), and France (where Marine Le Pen won, but did not exceed a percentage in the low 20s). In Germany the AfD didn’t even manage to surpass 10%, remaining in the single digits in western Germany, though up significantly in the former East Germany — a region that has seen almost 60 years of totalitarian regimes since 1933.

2. The Rise of the Greens in Europe

However, the main story of the EU election revolves around something different: the rise of the Green Party. In Germany, the Greens took almost 21% overall. Among young voters in Germany, the Greens — the only party that clearly positions itself pro climate action, pro immigration, pro social justice, pro EU— are now by far the most popular party. Even among voters under age 60, the Green Party ranks first (but with a smaller margin than among the under-30 voters). Even though the Greens remain weak in Eastern and Southern Europe, they gained strength across the board in Western and Northern Europe (e.g., in France to 13.5%) and in Europe overall. MORE

Extinction Rebellion and PR agencies call for industry to declare ‘climate conflicts’

Climate activists Extinction Rebellion are supporting a letter signed by more than a dozen PR agencies announcing their refusal to work on fossil fuel briefs, and calling for the industry to declare its ‘climate conflicts’.

Extinction Rebellion staged a protest at Cannes Lions last month

Extinction Rebellion staged a protest at Cannes Lions last month 

The letter commits each signatory to disclose, while respecting client confidentiality, the percentage of their turnover categorised by industry, including income from fossil fuel companies and other high-carbon clients by the end of this year.Several agencies have already disclosed the information.

The letter reads:

“We know many of our colleagues and friends across the creative industry are anxious/terrified about the climate emergency. We also know that disclosing climate conflicts will be too early, and too controversial, for many agencies today.

“But, we firmly believe that we cannot serve climate solutions, whilst still serving the industry’s most answerable for causing the climate emergency.

“Disclosure is only the first step on a journey that must lead to divestment – divesting agency client rosters of these clients. Agencies need to align our businesses with the climate science, just like everyone else.

“Thanks for the nudge, XR.”

Futerra co-founder Solitaire Townsend said the agency spearheaded the letter to “help put agencies on the right side of history”.

The full letter, sign up for agencies and individual creatives, agency client disclosure reports, and other resources are available here.

SOURCE

 

‘Biggest compliment yet’: Greta Thunberg welcomes oil chief’s ‘greatest threat’ label

Activists say comments by Opec head prove world opinion is turning against fossil fuels


 Greta Thunberg tweeted: ‘Thank you! Our biggest compliment yet!’ in response to Mohammed Barkindo’s comments Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Greta Thunberg and other climate activists have said it is a badge of honour that the head of the world’s most powerful oil cartel believes their campaign may be the “greatest threat” to the fossil fuel industry.

The criticism of striking students by the trillion-dollar Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) highlights the growing reputational concerns of oil companies as public protests intensify along with extreme weather.

Mohammed Barkindo, the secretary general of Opec, said there was a growing mass mobilisation of world opinion against oil, which was “beginning to … dictate policies and corporate decisions, including investment in the industry”.

He said the pressure was also being felt within the families of Opec officials because their own children “are asking us about their future because … they see their peers on the streets campaigning against this industry”.

Although he accused the campaigners of misleading people with unscientific arguments, the comments were welcomed by student and divestment campaigners as a sign the oil industry is worried it may be losing the battle for public opinion.

“Thank you! Our biggest compliment yet!” tweeted Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish initiator of the school student strike movement, which continues every Friday.

“Brilliant! Proof that we are having an impact and be sure that we will not stop,” said Holly Gillibrand, who was among the first students in the UK to join the global climate strikes.

Opec – which is made up of 14 countries with 80% of the world’s proven oil reserves – is planning to expand production, which is undermining efforts to slow global heating. The backlash is not just from students, Extinction Rebellion activists and climate scientists.

Insurance companies – which have the most to lose from storms, floods, fires and other extreme weather – are increasingly pulling investment from fossil fuel assets. The governor of the Bank of England has warned of growing climate risks to the financial sector.

Earlier this week, the London Stock Exchange reclassified oil and gas companies under a non-renewable energy category that effectively puts them on the wrong side of climate crisis. MORE

BEIS Strategy Committee question Extinction Rebellion

The UK Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee hears from Gail Bradbrook, Extinction Rebellion, Isabella O’Dowd, Climate and Energy Specialist, WWF and Baroness Bryony Worthington, of the Environmental Defense Fund on Tuesday 18 June, Thatcher Room, Portcullis House, London , UK

Following the Prime Minister’s commitment to the UK cutting carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, and the publication of the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) report, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee examine the rationale for going faster to hit the net zero target, hearing from witnesses including Gail Bradbrook, Extinction Rebellion, Isabella O’Dowd, Climate and Energy Specialist, WWF, and Baroness Bryony Worthington, Environmental Defense Fund. The session tests whether the CCC’s net zero advice, and the draft net zero legislation laid by the Prime Minister, go far enough to fulfil the UK’s commitments under the Paris Agreement and to protect our environment for current and future generations. It also scrutinises the rationale for, and feasibility of, alternative targets proposed by environmental organisations. On Wednesday 8th May, the BEIS Committee questioned the CCC and business stakeholders on the net zero target and actions needed to achieve net zero emissions. A hearing on net zero with a Government Minister will be scheduled for a later date. The hearings are part of the Committee’s ongoing work on the Clean Growth Strategy and complement its current inquiries on financing energy infrastructure and on energy efficiency. The Committee has also carried out inquiries on Carbon Capture Usage and Storage and on Electric Vehicles. SOURCE

Extinction Rebellion: Our Demands

Image result for extinction rebellion: our demands

Extinction Rebellion is an international apolitical network using non-violent direct action to persuade governments to act on the Climate and Ecological Emergency.

We have three demands in the UK:

01 TELL THE TRUTH

Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.

02 ACT NOW

Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.

03 BEYOND POLITICS

Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

WHAT IS A CITIZENS’ ASSEMBLY?

A citizens’ assembly brings people together to learn, deliberate and make recommendations on an issue of public concern. Similar to jury service, members are randomly selected from the population by a process called sortition. Quotas are used to ensure that the assembly is representative in terms of key characteristics such as gender, age, ethnicity, education level and geography. Assembly members learn about critical thinking before they hear balanced information from experts and stakeholders. The members spend time deliberating in small, facilitated groups and then they draft and vote on recommendations. Citizens’ assemblies are conducted by non-partisan organisations under independent oversight. They are transparent, inclusive and effective.

The UK Parliament already uses deliberative democracy processes, such as citizens’ assemblies, for example the Citizens’ Assembly on Social Careworked with House of Commons Select Committees and there are three deliberative democracy projects currently running as part of the Innovation in Democracy project. Citizens’ assemblies around the world – for example in IrelandCanadaAustraliaBelgium and Poland – have demonstrated that the general public can understand complex information, deliberate on options, and make fair and impartial choices.

Citizens’ assemblies are often used to address issues that are deemed too controversial and difficult for politicians to deal with successfully by themselves. In recent years, Ireland’s Citizens’ Assembly has broken the deadlock on two controversial issues: legalising same-sex marriage and the repeal of the ban on abortion. The recommendations of the citizens’ assembly informed public debate and emboldened politicians to advocate for change regarding these issues. The recommendations of their citizens’ assembly on Making Ireland a Leader in Tackling Climate Change is currently being incorporated into the Government’s action plan.

Why is Extinction Rebellion demanding a citizens’ assembly?

This is an emergency. The challenges are big, wide-ranging and complex. And solutions are needed urgently.

Extinction Rebellion believes that part of the problem is the way our parliamentary democracy operates:

    • In the UK’s form of parliamentary democracy, power is in the hands of a few representatives (MPs) who are elected by the public. Over the last 40 years, this form of government has proved itself incapable of making the long-term policy decisions needed to deal effectively with the climate and ecological emergency. The five-year electoral cycle in the representative system of democracy discourages governments attending to long-term issues like climate change.
    • Democratic representatives are lobbied by powerful corporations, seek sympathetic media coverage, and calculate their policies based on potential media and public reactions, as measured by opinion polls. This means politicians often feel unable to propose the bold changes necessary to address the emergency.
    • Opinion polls often gather knee-jerk reactions to loaded questions, and they do not inform the respondent or enable them to explore the implications of different options with others. For an issue as complex as the climate emergency, opinion polling is of limited value.

Here is how a citizens’ assembly on climate and ecological justice can break the deadlock:

  • A citizens’ assembly on climate and ecological justice will break this deadlock by giving politicians access to public judgements that have been reached in a fair and informed way. This will help politicians to commit to a transformative programme of action justified by the mandate they receive from the citizens’ assembly, reducing the potential public backlash at the ballot-box.
  • Citizens’ assemblies are fair and transparent. Assembly members have an equal chance of being heard and information regarding experts, stakeholders and the materials given to assembly members is shared publicly. This produces informed and democratically legitimate judgements.
  • Citizens’ assemblies can be used when difficult trade-offs are necessary. For example, experts might propose policies on how to meet a 2025 target for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and the assembly would then decide which one they prefer. For example, they might consider how to mitigate the effects of any changes in economic policies for those in society on low incomes.

You can find out much more on our citizens’ assembly page.

MORE

We are full of bright ideas to solve ecological problems. So let’s act on them

There is hope in the face of environmental crises. But we must all – farmers, citizens, politicians – embrace change


 ‘Charlie Burrell and Isabella Tree at Knepp in West Sussex have turned a failing farm into a rewilded, ecological haven with loads of biodiversity.’ Photograph: Anthony Cullen/The Guardian

A new UN report is set to reveal that up to 1m species face extinction because of human actions. The loss of pollinating insects and other ecological disasters – from the destruction of flood-saving mangroves to air pollution – poses no less of a threat than climate change, according to the report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

We are triggering a mass extinction event, and critically we cannot separate one environmental crisis from another. Biodiversity loss cannot be partitioned from climate change, or from human population growth or pollution or plastics in our oceans. These challenges are all interconnected. We face an ecology of environmental concerns, and if we continue to consider these problems in partitioned isolation, solutions will continue to emerge far too slowly.

The IPBES report reveals that 3.2 billion people are suffering from degraded soils. We cannot feed our planet’s growing population by destroying its soil. And soil erosion is also fuelling climate change because that earth contains three times more carbon than is in the atmosphere. Soil-destroying chemical farming means there are no insects or skylarks above our fields – and so we’re experiencing this tragic loss of biodiversity.

The connections between these crises make solutions seem all too dauntingly difficult. But in fact, a solution to one problem will inevitably make a positive impact on many others too. More than 28,000 people are dying because of polluted air each year in Britain and air pollution is linked to psychotic experiences and a reduction in educational achievement. It’s not rocket science: improving air quality in our cities by cutting polluting vehicles will bring a vast range of benefits to human health, and help tackle climate change too. That’s a simple binary example of the ecology of crisis.

George Monbiot advocates taking land out of meat production and rewilding it. This will boost biodiversity enormously but will also tackle global warming because those rewilded, rewetted lands will capture significantly more carbon. If these lands are also opened up for us to enjoy, our physical and mental health will flourish. Thus we repair the ecology of destruction.

It can be difficult to know what we can do as individuals – but at least we all possess an increasingly sophisticated understanding of how farming, consumption and energy-use impacts upon the planet, hence the growth of the vegan movement. Lifestyle changes are always worth doing, but seldom as simple as they seem. As I found during Veganuary, it wasn’t too difficult to go vegan but that didn’t automatically mean I was eating ethically or in an environmentally friendly way: some of my vegan food was over-packaged and filled with palm oil.


 ‘The Extinction Rebellion protests made a difference to environmental debates in the House of Commons.’ Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

If I make a change, it’s me. If both of us do, it’s we. That’s how things grow. The youth climate strikes have been an incredible act of self-empowerment for that generation. I hope their confidence will grow and grow. At the moment they are campaigning about the climate; I hope that next they’ll be campaigning about how they can’t hear any birds singing. MORE

Extinction Rebellion Heathrow: Drone protesters face LIFE in jail, government warns

As civil disobedience escalates, government doubles down with unprecedented measures to control protesters. A similar tendency is developing in the United States where protesters are fighting pipelines. At what point do democracies lose their legitimacy when they  torque “the rule of law”?

Extinction Rebellion protesters who disrupt Heathrow Airport with drones could face life behind bars, the government has warned.


Extinction Rebellion protesters at their final destination of Parliament Square in Westminster after marching from their camp at Marble Arch PA

The climate activist group has vowed to “shut down” Heathrow for 10 days this summer by flying drones near the airfield.

But Baroness Vere countered on Friday: “Flying drones near an airport is a serious criminal offence and using drones to deliberately put people’s safety at risk carries a maximum life sentence.

“No government has done more to reduce carbon emissions, and Britain is at the forefront of global efforts to tackle climate change.

A drone flies in Hanworth Park in west London as a British Airways 747 plane prepares to land at Heathrow Airport (file image) (John Stillwell/PA)

“Any illegal activity must be met with the full force of the law.”

The Met has said it will take “firm action against any protester seeking to cause disruption”. It comes after the Extinction Rebellion group brought parts of London to a standstill during two weeks of demonstrations in April.

“It may be the case that the people are rounded up beforehand to stop this from happening. That might be the most effective way to deal with this.”

But an expert has warned the airport and the police may have no way of dealing with a sustained drone attack. MORE

Related:

Extinction Rebellion plans Heathrow drone protest

Extinction Rebellion
Climate protesters held a demonstration outside Heathrow Airport on 19 April Getty Images

After Standing Rock, Protesting Pipelines Can Get You a Decade in Prison and $100k in Fines

Why mining justice must be central to the Green New Deal

 

Between May 18 and May 31, people across the country will be holding town halls in their communities to shape a vision for a Green New Deal. There is a Green New Deal set up for Belleville on Monday, May 27th at St Thomas Church, 7 to 9 pm.

Mining in Kailo. Photo: Julien Harneis/Wikimedia CommonsIt is imperative that we win a bold and profoundly transformative Green New Deal to avert the catastrophe of deepening climate breakdown.

We need a rebellion against a toxic system that Extinction Rebellion co-founder Stuart Basden has highlighted includes colonialism, white supremacy, patriarchy, Eurocentrism, hetero-sexism/heteronormativity, class hierarchy and other oppressions.

That toxic system also includes extreme violence and environmental damage by transnational mining corporations, many of them headquartered in Canada.

…a green colonialism that claims leadership and ignores the lived experience of the global majority “is no victory worth claiming, and it is the default left position if we do not actively fight for a different vision.”

Afro-Colombian anti-mining activist Francia Márquez, who recently survived an assassination attempt, frames her broader vision of challenging climate change as follows:

“I am one of those people who raise their voices to stop the destruction of rivers, forests, and wetlands; one of those people who dream that, one day, human beings are going to change the economic model of death, in order to build a model that guarantees life.”

A conscious and explicit recognition of the need for mining justice — and the impacts of mining injustice on racialized communities around the world — are critical components of the Green New Deal and the economic model of life that we need to build. SOURCE


 

Extinction Rebellion – “This is not the end”

 


The biggest display of civil disobedience on a national scale in decades. What’s next?

…Police officers carry rebels by their arms and legs towards police vans, and with every arrest a cheer erupts, followed by chants of, ‘We love you’. People are playing Christmas songs on the clarinet and singing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ around a set of drums. A giant inflatable elephant with ‘Ecocide’ printed across it is marched around the crowds. “This isn’t the beginning, this has been building for a really long time.But this splash, this dedication, this passion and what all of us have experienced here is a turning point.”


The inflatable ‘Ecocide’ elephant was marched around crowds at the Marble Arch site

British actress Emma Thompson talks to members of the media from atop the pink boat after police officers surrounded the boat being used as a stage

Behind all of these demonstrations are three demands, laid out on banners, leaflets, direct requests to the government, and even on the pink boat: Tell the Truth, Act Now, and Beyond Politics.

They want the government to declare a climate and ecological emergency, to act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025, and to create a citizen’s assembly to oversee the changes needed to achieve these goals. MORE