We must all listen to passing Lightship Greta’s message

Extinction Rebellion’s protests have not been as high profile in the news as last year. They took London – and everybody – by surprise at Easter in April 2019 when addressing the climate emergency.

One report even asked whether Extinction Rebellion was itself extinct. The report carried a picture of just a few activists outside Parliament on Monday, the first day of two weeks of planned action.

Anyone who tried to buy certain papers on Saturday might have found they couldn’t, because protesters disrupted their printing. Activists argued that the papers concerned failed to report on climate change properly, or at all. It is frustrating when reading coverage about the climate emergency that the reports are frequent when there is disruption and a supposed lack of police response, but not so frequent about the issue itself.

Ironically, on this occasion, Sun readers would have missed Sir David Attenborough saying humanity stands at a crossroads over climate change.

It’s not like humanity – in Britain – hasn’t been here before, with civil disobedience and attacks on buildings. Members of the suffragette movement trying to win women the vote carried out window smashing, protests. One even brought down the King’s horse in the Derby in an effort to be heard.

One reason for a sparse turnout in London on Monday might have been demonstrators taking longer to reach the major cities. This was no doubt deliberate, to spread the issue. On Wednesday night, a group of Extinction Rebellion supporters stopped on land outside St John’s Church. They rested their float – called Lightship Greta after the teenage Swedish activist who has sparked a worldwide environmental movement – there for a night. They had pushed it all the way from Brighton, along roads, and were heading for Sutton and then London.

But what is the movement calling for this year? Last year, they wanted the UK government to declare a climate emergency. Which it then did. They wanted a Citizens Assembly to be set up to discuss how the UK would meet targets set by the 2016 Paris Agreement.

This year, they want support for a private members’ bill called the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill. It is written by lawyers, scientists and activists. It was launched on August 12 and tabled in Parliament this week by Caroline Lucas, the UK’s only Green Party MP. The bill is supported by MPs from seven parties. Put forward by an MP rather than being part of the Government’s legislative programme, it has a limited amount of success. However, readers could try writing to their MP to support it.

Now the Climate Emergency has been declared, this is an attempt to put down an overall plan. It wants to protect the conservation of nature here and abroad. Then it asks that the UK’s actions here and overseas (eg flights) all count towards calculating our carbon footprint. This is to give a fuller picture of what needs addressing. And it wants to dismiss a perceived prevailing attitude that future technology will save us.

As Greta Thunberg herself said this week, society mustn’t “dump climate change on today’s children to fix”. The UK Government has been long since warned it will miss its own 2050 carbon emission targets, because of various pieces of inaction.

We need to think about it in every aspect of our lives. This might be considering the carbon footprint chain – and human rights issues – in our investments, as ShareAction campaign to do.

Or it might be committing to reduce our single-use plastic consumption, as it threatens to further pollute our environment. Apparently oil companies are pivoting towards producing more plastic because of the lower demand for oil.

Climate Change isn’t a passing issue – unlike Lightship Greta’s brief stopover in Redhill, or any disruption felt by traffic along the way. This isn’t going to go away anytime soon.