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Failure to act on climate and biodiversity crisis justifies direct action

What the climate protesters want is action now, not at some distant point when it is too late – and they’re right to keep up the pressure, says PAUL DONOVAN

THE activities of direct action environmentalists Extinction Rebellion have caused something of a stir across the land. 

Efforts to block roads and obstruct the flow of traffic has raised temperatures. 

Recently, another group, Insulate Britain, took action to stop traffic flows on some major motorways. Their aim is to get more insulation of buildings to halt carbon emissions — not that revolutionary, many may think. 

It is always amusing to hear or read mainstream media journalists tackling the environmental direct action activists. They earnestly question why they are disrupting daily activity in such a way. 

The question rather misses, or makes the point — namely, that it is the normal way of living that has landed us in this crisis in the first place. Going back to “normal” is no answer. 

The protesters point is that conventional routes of seeking to get government at all levels to act to counter climate and biodiversity catastrophe do not work. 

They have not brought the action required, often only vacuous rhetoric and promises that never seem to be fulfilled. 

Note the commitments made at the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 to transfer $100 billion a year to poorer countries in order that they could counter climate change — the funds have not materialised. 

Governments pass climate emergency legislation but the dictionary definition of emergency is missing. Things begin to happen but only slowly. 

Swedish activist Greta Thurnberg has repeatedly pointed out how the politicians are not taking this crisis seriously. The direct action is born of total frustration.  

Increasing numbers of people across the world recognise the emergency that climate and biodiversity destruction represents. 

What is more everyone has seen how world governments can act in an emergency, as evidenced by Covid-19. 

What is needed is for the climate and biodiversity crises to be given the same emergency status as the pandemic. 

Indeed, there is a strong argument that Covid was born partly out of the biodiversity crisis. 

The great irony of the journalists who question the actions of the direct action activists is that quite often the same news bulletin will include the latest devastation caused by climate destruction. The two items do not seem to be joined together. 

What government needs to do is recognise the urgency of the climate and biodiversity crisis and respond to the demands of the protesters. 

It is no response to simply seek to criminalise protest. That is not an answer — the protest will simply move elsewhere, taking a different form. 

What the protesters want is action now, not at some distant point when it is too late with the world gone beyond the tipping point of climate and biodiversity destruction. 

The world will be watching when leaders gather for the Cop26 meeting in November — more meaningless rhetoric simply won’t do. Action is needed now.

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