No, Britain isn't a leader on climate change, according to Extinction Rebellion

Joe Sommerlad@JoeSommerlad
Thursday 25 April 2019 08:00
news

Like many countries around the world, Britain has been complacent about climate change for too long and is only now waking up to the true scale of the emergency the planet faces.

We have been too slow to take action, ignoring the alarming early-year heatwaves, dismissing the warnings of environmental experts and assuming putting out a recycling bin once a week was enough to make us a leader in caring for the natural world.

It was easier to believe we were superior to the likes of US president Donald Trump - who has blithely written off global warming as a "hoax", withdrawn his country from the 2015 Paris Accord and attempted to revive domestic fossil fuel production - than make real domestic sacrifices to curb our insatiable demand for energy.

But laughing at an idiot for suggesting the noise from wind turbines cause cancer, as Trump did earlier this month, is not the same as taking positive steps towards reining in our own excesses with legislation to tackle carbon pollution from industry or investing in renewable energy technology to run our homes.

The recent work of protests groups like Extinction Rebellion - occupying London's bridges, roads and Underground, and demonstrating naked in the House of Commons to capture the attention of the ruling elite - and the example of inspirational Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg have provided us with the wake-up call we needed.

With activists blocking Marble Arch and Parliament Square in central London, Extinction Rebellion spokesman Rupert Read appeared on BBC Two's Politics Live this week and delivered a stinging rebuke to Conservative MP Zadhim Zahwari when he suggested demonstrators taking part would subsequently be seen “jetting off to LA in business class”.

“Extinction Rebellion is not about blaming individuals," Read began, placing the emphasis on collective action over personal culpability.

"If you include sea travel, if you include air travel, if you include embodied emissions - that means the emissions from the products that we buy from abroad - emissions have barely fallen since 1990 so can we please nail this myth that Britain is a leader on climate, We're just not," he told Zahwari.

He's right. Britain needs to admit it has a problem before changes can be made and our future safeguarded.

Now that Brexit has been postponed, the time to press our politicians to act is now and a genuine note of optimism appears to be in the air.

Thunberg's meeting with Jeremy Corbyn and Green Party leader Caroline Lucas in Westminster on Tuesday and the airing of programmes like the BBC's recent documentary Climate Change: The Facts with David Attenborough help bring climate change to the forefront of the national debate and not before time.

More: Six times protest teen Greta Thunberg was brutally honest about climate change

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