Climate change protesters from Hackney and Lewisham joined forces with thousands of others in central London on Monday as part of Extinction Rebellion (XR)’s latest wave of environmental protests. XR kick-started its two week long “International Rebellion” by taking over twelve sites across central London, including Trafalgar Square, Westminster and Lambeth Bridge, Victoria Street, Whitehall, and Horse Guards Road.
XR demands include for the government to “tell the truth” by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, commit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025, and create a Citizens Assembly to oversee “climate and ecological justice.”
Many councils in London have agreed to adopt stricter environmental policies to tackle the crisis. Hackney and Lewisham are among the fifteen London boroughs whose councils have declared climate emergencies.
For Chloe, who joined XR Hackney in February, the council’s response is mostly due to the activists’ effort to inform and educate local MP’s on the dangers of climate change. “It’s been really successful,” she says. “They’ve been listening, they’ve been understanding. There’s obviously a lot more that can be done, especially with getting the local MPs to understand the issue and raising it to national levels.
“There is a lot more pollution in Hackney that in many other boroughs. The lungs of children who grow up breathing the air of Hackney are 7 per cent less developed than normal humans. It’s really important, because we are working in the local community, to make it relatable to that local community, to bring the fact that we’re not talking about climate change somewhere else where they have heat waves of 40 or 50 degrees, we’re talking about your children here.”
Lewisham activists were also present in central London. One protester, who wished to be known only as “M from Lewisham”, was satisfied with the council’s response.
“Lewisham council has done more than most,” he said. “We really have to point out the things that they can do and encourage them with the things that they’ve already done.”
M., who joined XR Lewisham shortly after April’s XR protests in the capital, which saw over 1,100 people arrested, urged others to join the protest. “It’s a duty. It’s a responsibility to the natural world, to the ecology and the environment, and everybody else in our society, “ he says. “I felt this so strongly I couldn’t stay away. I don’t understand why everybody doesn’t feel this strongly about protecting our world.”
Now, with more than 303 thousand followers on Facebook, XR is once again urging the government to take action in order to “avert catastrophic climate breakdown.”
Hackney Council gave its support to Extinction Rebellion Hackney last February after declaring a climate emergency and committing to a 45 per cent decrease in the borough’s carbon footprint by 2030. The council aims to reach net zero emission by 2040, 10 years earlier than the UK government has promised.
“The central message of Extinction Rebellion is one we, and many Hackney residents, support,” says the statement. “Whatever our differences on some of the detail, and what is realistically achievable and by when, there is no doubt that we are in a climate emergency and all need to act to address it.”
Lewisham council, on the other hand, aims to reduce its carbon emissions by 44 per cent by 2020 and hopes to become carbon neutral by 2030, a policy that XR Lewisham seems satisfied with.
Protests are expected to last up to two weeks. Over 300 arrests had been made by the end of Tuesday.