This Monday marked the start of two weeks of global action by the climate activist group Extinction Rebellion. The action the group plans to undertake will be disruptive and it’ll be annoying for commuters and the free flow of traffic, but I feel it is right to mainstream this debate and unfortunately that only happens when people’s attention is attracted.
Peaceful protest is a fundamental right for all of us, and a vital part of a healthy democracy. The attempts to shut down roads and block bridges in central London raise important questions about how serious we are about tackling the climate crisis head-on. We cannot reduce our reliance on fossil fuels if we continue to burn fossil fuels to get around.
I’ll never lecture, not least of all I am learning myself on the true impact of our everyday actions on the world we live in, and I also recognise that making change happen can seem so huge it overwhelms us, especially when you consider coordinating an international response.
Here in the UK, just 28% of Londoners use a car to commute to work, that figure in Greater Manchester is 70% according to the latest available statistics released by the Department for Transport. We’ve seen huge cuts to public transport and the cost of getting around has routinely outstripped inflation, hitting lower income commuters the hardest. That is clearly unsustainable. To tackle this issue, and let’s not forget this is only a very small part of a wider crisis, we need to heavily invest in public transport links across the country.
If the Extinction Rebellion organisers are correct in expecting 30,000 people to take part in the planned demonstrations then this can, and really should, be the start of the climate emergency becoming the central issue in our politics.
It’s time we ended fracking and wind down our reliance on fossil fuels in general, we increase the percentage of energy we use from green sources, and we plan for a Green Industrial Revolution. The wholescale changes we need in this country to deal with the climate crisis are an opportunity to invest in green jobs all across Britain. Britain led the way in Industrial Revolution, and towns like Oldham were crucial. Why can’t Britain lead the way in the Green Industrial Revolution and why can’t Oldham be just as crucial.
The next Labour Government will fight this climate crisis tooth and nail, at Labour Conference 2019 we agreed to work towards net-zero carbon emissions by 2030 as part of a Green New Deal. Which would include a, welcome, ban on fracking, taking the Big Six energy companies into public ownership, investing in almost half-a-million sustainable green jobs, installing solar panels on 2 million homes, and creating a Clean Air Act.