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Extinction Rebellion - challenging the UK government over climate inaction

Saturday, 24 November, 2018 by

Writing: Dawn Gillies

Illustration: Bee Anderson (@beeillustrates)

November has seen the launch of a new campaign seeking government action to stop climate breakdown in its tracks. Extinction Rebellion is calling for the UK government to commit to legally binding policy which will see net zero carbon emissions by 2025. They are backed by the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, senior academics, politicians, and activists.

With the warning that humanity has wiped out 60% of mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles since the 1970s coming days before their first protest, the campaign couldn’t come at a more crucial time. The UN estimates that we only have 12 years left to limit the impact of global warming. We are losing around 200 species a day - plant, insect, bird, and mammal populations are drastically declining. Clearly, change is desperately needed. But it is still technically and economically possible to achieve if action is taken immediately.

Members of the Extinction Rebellion, which advocates peaceful protest, saw over 1000 campaigners descend on Parliament Square in London to state their demands and bring attention to the ever-worsening crisis. Fifteen protesters were arrested for peacefully blockading a major road, with many more willing to go to jail to make their message heard. Acts of civil disobedience will be carried out this month to highlight the peril we face if the government continues to ignore climate breakdown and promote the use of fossil fuels. More arrests may follow but given the government’s refusal to act upon the recommendations of scientists across the globe, the Rebellion sees it as the only way left to force those in power to make the necessary changes.

The government must put the future of humanity above political motives and the will of party donors. Policies must be changed. To allow fracking, for example, is in direct contradiction of any attempt to reduce carbon emissions. To import fracked gas is just as problematic. New solutions must be implemented immediately to prevent the total breakdown of our climate.

Air pollution in the UK is so poor that the government has been referred to the European Court of Justice. Levels of nitrogen dioxide in urban areas have been illegally high for almost a decade, irritating respiratory illnesses like asthma and forming acid rain. The death of a nine year old girl in London was linked to air pollution earlier this year. Yet the government continues to breach international limits. The death of a child has not moved them, so clearly normal democratic avenues aren’t working.

Extinction Rebellion is a grassroots organisation which is recruiting new members up and down the country. Anyone can act in their name so long as they adhere to the Rebellion’s principles. It is a campaign which has attracted people young and old, seasoned and new to campaigning, and wants to make sure every voice is heard. A Scottish arm of the organisation has just started up, with an initial meeting in Glasgow attracting around 50 people, many of whom are new to campaigning.

To find out more, visit XR Scotland on Facebook, or sign up at (

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