UK environmental movement sets ultimatum for government action amid mass protests for climate crisis News
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UK environmental movement sets ultimatum for government action amid mass protests for climate crisis

Thousands of protesters Friday descended on Westminster to join the biggest protest tackling the climate crisis ever held in the UK.

The unprecedented action was co-ordinated by Extinction Rebellion (XR), a UK-based global environmental movement which aims to use mass nonviolent civil disobedience to challenge government inaction over climate change. More than 200 environmental and social justice groups joined XR including Greenpeace and Global Justice Now. The two main demands are for the government to end all new oil, gas and coal projects and to launch emergency “Citizens Assemblies” “to allow the people to decide how to end the fossil fuel era.”

XR has set a ultimatum of Monday at 5pm for the government to engage with their demands and threatens to “step up [their] tactics” if the government fails. Tactically, XR is renowned for using mass arrest to generate attention for their cause, blocking roads, anchoring themselves to structures or occupying buildings.

Greenpeace UK’s executive director Areeba Hamid described the protests as “the catalyst of a new united fight against the vested interests putting profits over people and the planet.”

The first day of the four-day protests saw “People’s Pickets” outside government departments in Whitehall, calling for urgent new policies to tackle the climate emergency. Rob Callender, XR spokesperson, said that “tackling the climate crisis means creating a better, fairer, more caring society for everyone,” citing the links between the cost of the living crisis and oil and gas giants’ profits.

XR later linked up Earth Day organisers for a biodiversity march in Westminster, joined by 20,000 people. The route circled around government departments, ending in Parliament Square for a mass “die-in:” a symbolic spectacle where participants spread out and lay down in silence. It marked the 70 percent decline in wild animal populations since the first Earth Day in 1970.

Thousands of small, paper pink boats were delivered to the Home Office as part of the demonstration, a key part of XR’s identify as a symbol of forced climate migration. XR stated that they “stand in solidarity and compassion with refugees and climate migrants,” joining mass criticisms of the upcoming hearing of the Illegal Migration Bill.

Despite Parliament’s declaration a climate emergency in 2019 and overwhelming public support for action, the UK Government has been largely criticised for its failure to effectively plan for the effects of climate change. The Climate Change Act of 2008 established a legally binding target of reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050; the current strategy of the government is a shift towards clean growth and climate adaptation.