Back again on the London streets since May 1st, Extinction Rebellion (XR) is now planning two weeks of protests. Their aim is to “peacefully occupy centres of power and shut them down”.
As an experienced greenie, working in carbon reduction for over a decade, I’m an advocate of accelerating activity to reduce emissions, but I sense the media spotlight gained by XR may be wasted without clearer communication towards the general public as to what they seek. Previous environmental causes such as Twyford Down, Frack Off, and Plane Stupid all had clear aims and actions, so what is it that XR really want?
Three key aims of XR:
- For the UK Government to be truthful about the risk and declare a climate emergency
- To ensure the emergency target is legally binding to a net-zero 2025 target, instead of the current 80% by 2050 target1
- To create a citizens’ assembly to oversee progress
What about the actions?
Let’s assume the UK adopts a tougher target and makes it legally binding, then what?
Moving to a ‘war footing’ will be hard to achieve when the public cannot easily see the threat nor understand the actions they need to make. The US mobilisation effort in WWII after Pearl Harbour and the global reaction to the AIDS pandemic are noted examples of a government direct action yet in both cases the threats and actions were clear. XR is working hard to push the government to expose the climate change threat but is not communicating the crucial actions they feel will mitigate this threat. XR seems reluctant to tell the public what’s needed to achieve these aims. Is that they don’t know what’s needed or fear a public backlash?
Britain is already struggling with the implications of political vagueness created by the EU Referendum (What is a hard/soft Brexit), they’ll seek greater clarity in order to drum up support to this cause.
1Note: The UK Government has declared a Climate Emergency in May. For XR this is too slow in adoption and not legally binding.
Haydn Young is an independent energy management expert and founder of The Energy Club.
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