‘We’re only getting started on our climate campaign’ – Extinction Rebellion York

25 Mar 2019 @ 8.09 am
| Environment

Extinction Rebellion (XR) is a environmental direct action network that has been actively engaging in civil disobedience since October 2018.

We do this because for too long not enough action has been taken to address the breakdown of the climate and the destruction of the living planet. These threats now represent a very real existential threat to our futures and the future habitability of the planet itself.

We have three demands:

  1. That the government acknowledges that we are living in a climate emergency and reverses all inconsistent policies (like creating a new coal mine) and communicates the scale of the crisis with citizens
  2. That they reduce emissions to net zero by 2025, and
  3. That they create a national and representative citizens assembly to oversee the process.

We accept that these demands are ambitious but believe that we must push for them regardless in order to have the best chance of tackling the climate crisis.

Climate change emergency

Members of Extinction Rebellion York march through the city demanding the council declare a climate emergency before the council meeting. Photo credit: Golam Rabbani

We are not just acting at the national and international level however. Climate change requires actions at all levels and local groups and cities must play their part.

In York our efforts have been focused on getting the council to declare a climate emergency and commit to carbon neutrality by 2030. This campaign began in November, and last week the motion declaring a climate emergency and committing to carbon neutrality by 2030 was passed unanimously by all parties.

In our campaign we employed a variety of methods such as creative direct action, music, roadblocks and petitions to show how much public support there is for this motion.

We strongly believe that this demonstration of public support and pressure played an important role in passing the motion, and demonstrated that when people organise and demand action they truly can create meaningful change.

With national government not doing enough we need local governments to step up where they can. Local government has a duty to protect the interests and lives of its citizens in every way it possibly can.

For York and councils all around the country this can begin with recognising the scale of the emergency we are living in and acting accordingly.

We also hope that in passing this motion the council will come together with the numerous other councils that have already passed similar motions to demand more from our national government both in terms of funding to tackle the issue in York and demands that the national government itself do more.

Deadly heat

Extinction Rebellion York members staging a ‘die in’ at York Designer Outlet in February. Photo credit: Veda Kohli
Just how serious is climate change?

Scientists have known for decades that humans have been causing the climate to warm due to human actions like burning fossil fuels. We’ve already warmed the planet by around 1°C and are at risk of warming the planet by 4°C by 2100 if we carry on with business as usual.

Now 4°C may not sound like a lot in terms of weather but at the level of the wider climate its effects are huge. At warming of 4°C, 74% of the world’s population would live in an area of deadly heat itself which doesn’t even take into account soil fertility, drought and famine.

It would also lead to rising sea levels making coastal areas around the world uninhabitable, and make extreme weather events like flooding and wildfires more likely.

This means we would be seeing millions of people dying and being displaced due to things like hunger and drought. In some places this is happening already.

Impact on York

Flashback to the December 2015 floods. Photograph: Nigel Holland
It’s not just globally where the impacts will be felt. There will be very real impacts in the UK and for the people of York.

As we all know York already suffers from flooding. The 2015 floods cost York nearly £1 million and impacted on thousands of people.

This is only going to get worse in the near future. There’s also many health impacts of climate breakdown, largely impacting the elderly and children the most.

We have barely scratched the surface of the negative impacts of climate breakdown and haven’t even mentioned things like tipping points, such as the melting of the arctic permafrost, that could cause the earth to move to a new ‘hothouse’ state, permanently altering its system and making climate breakdown something we could no longer even control.

Civil disobedience

Members of Extinction Rebellion York celebrate outside the council after they passed the motion declaring a climate emergency and committing to carbon neutrality by 2030. Photo credit: Veda Kohli
This is all why we in XR take action. We are living in an emergency and we have to start acting like it.

We’re calling for non-violent civil disobedience not just because traditional methods haven’t worked so far but because we have to tell the truth about the scale of the situation and act like that truth is real.

We’re part of movements around the world rising for the climate, from school strikers to anti frackers and from indigenous peoples protecting their lands from pipelines to the divestment movement we’re all trying to create a better and more habitable world.

We rebel because not enough is being done. We rebel because we want a habitable planet for future generations. We rebel for life itself. We are Extinction Rebellion and we’re only just getting started.

Mark Matthews and Merry Dickinson are the coordinators of Extinction Rebellion York and were also recently elected as Environment & Ethics Officers at the University of York Student Union. They’re extremely sleep deprived.