Extinction Rebellion Protests
This week Westminster has been enlivened by the sound of bongo drums and the sight of tents pitched in the middle of roads as ‘Extinction Rebellion’ brought another protest to central London.
It is one of the triumphs of our democracy that we have free speech and the right to protest. But I was surprised that this extended to a right to block highways for days.
If I were to go and sit cross-legged on the A27 at Arundel, pitch my tent and bring traffic to a standstill, I wonder how long it would be before Sussex Police carted me off.
To be fair, hundreds of arrests were eventually made. But let’s examine the protesters’ case. I agree that we have a climate emergency that requires urgent action.
So does Parliament. We’ve just passed a motion to say so, and to lock in a legal target for ‘next zero’ emissions by 2050. That’s an incredibly ambitious target, the first such to be set by a major country, and it will require very big changes to meet it.
The target has not been set randomly but on the basis of scientific advice. By contrast, the Extinction Rebellion demand is random, for net zero by 2025 - in just over five years’ time.
That is not justified by the science and it would be practically impossible to meet. It would require revolutionary change to the economy, which is exactly what many of the protesters want.
Restrictions on flying and cars. Dramatic changes to diet. A huge hit on living standards. Even a one-child policy, as one of the groups told my neighbouring MP, Gillian Keegan.
It wasn’t hard to see that many of the protesters were really anti-capitalists who want some kind of eco-socialism or green anarchism.
I can’t think of a quicker way to lose public support for the climate action we need.
Their last demand? A “national citizens’ assembly on ecological justice”. In case they hadn’t noticed, the Parliament which they were trying to block consists of elected MPs.
Who are these protestors to set themselves up in judgement on the rest of us? Their call for an unelected, unaccountable “assembly” has communist overtones which are faintly sinister.
Peaceful protest is a fine thing. The cause of climate action is right. But this disruptive “rebellion” with its extreme demands is something else altogether.