Rebellion has to continue, say climate campaigners after ‘disappointing’ talks

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Members of Extinction Rebellion said they had a ‘disappointing’ meeting with Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

Extinction Rebellion protests in Parliament Square

Members of campaign group Extinction Rebellion said “the rebellion has to continue” after a “disappointing” meeting with Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

Five members of the group met with Mr Gove and ministers from other departments, including the Treasury, in Westminster to discuss demands for change.

They include declaring a national emergency on climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025 and establishing a Citizens Assembly for people to make decisions and suggest policies.

However, they said they were left frustrated with Mr Gove, who said in an interview afterwards that he felt the talks went well.

Extinction Rebellion representatives meet Environment Secretary Michael Gove
Extinction Rebellion representatives meet Environment Secretary Michael Gove (Extinction Rebellion/PA)

He said: “We had a good conversation with the Extinction Rebellion team. I explained to them that I’m not a fan of direct action, some of the steps they’ve taken in order to get their argument across are steps that I deprecate, but I also said that I believe that they’re motivated by high ideals I share.

“I think, yes, that is absolutely important that we raise the level of knowledge that people have about the climate challenges we face. Their first point, their first argument they’ve raised is on the money. I think we do need to deliver a wider level of public understanding.

“Their second point, about the need to reduce emissions to zero, I think is right as well. I think the key question there is timescale, what is achievable?


“And on the third point, a citizens’ assembly, I’m open minded. My view is we need to involve as many people as possible in shaping solutions to the challenges we face, and are committed to exploring with the Mayor of London and others, how we can make sure that the public voice is heard even more resonantly in the future.”

However the MP for Surrey Heath refused to declare a climate emergency, despite the Welsh and Scottish governments doing so.

Asked if he felt there was a climate emergency, Mr Gove said: “I think the situation is certainly a grave one, and I think that the most important thing is to ensure that our government acts. Politicians should be judged on actions not words.


“We should show that we’re making a difference rather than simply telling everyone how important it is to change.

“And that’s why I think it’s critically important we take the advice from the Climate Change Committee, the independent body that holds this government and future governments to account for reducing carbon emissions by making sure we do everything possible to deal with climate change.”

Member of the youth branch Felix Ottaway O’Mahony, 14, from Lambeth, south London, said: “This meeting has been very disappointing, we’ve set no concrete demands, he hasn’t accepted any of our demands, he’s avoided our demands as a whole, he isn’t going to declare a national emergency.

“However, something has to be said for the fact he has recognised there is an issue.”

He added: “He is going to meet us again in a month’s time, which is a step forward that we will now be regularly meeting with political members.

“However, the rebellion has to continue because our demands have not been met.”

Farhana Yamin, 54, a prominent climate change lawyer who glued herself to Shell’s London headquarters during a week of protests, said: “I definitely think he could have taken the initiative to say Defra will show leadership that was necessary for the nation to come together, I was expecting a little bit more.”

Earlier in the day, another meeting took place, with Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell at Portcullis House, which resulted in Extinction Rebellion being asked to address the shadow cabinet.

The meeting, which lasted more than an hour, concluded with claims some progress had been made.

Former Green Party county councillor for Stroud Sarah Lunnon, 54, who attended the meeting, said: “They gave us a concrete commitment to actually go and talk, McDonnell will ask for Extinction Rebellion to address the shadow cabinet, the shadow environment committee and also the Treasury Committee.

“I think it’s really fair to say the Labour Party are listening to Extinction Rebellion, I think they’ve heard the voices of all those people who got arrested on the streets.”

However, the MP for Hayes and Harlington did not agree to change the date in the Labour Party manifesto, which plans to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, but would consider a new target of 2030.

This came after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn announced that the party will force a House of Commons vote on whether to declare an environmental and climate emergency following mass protests in London.

Theresa May’s official spokesman told a Westminster press briefing: “We are committed to tackling climate change and being the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we found it.

“We are already a world leader on this issue, cutting emissions further and faster than any other G7 country, but of course we need to do more.”

Asked whether Mrs May agreed there was an “environment emergency”, the spokesman added: “As the Environment Secretary has set out this afternoon, the most important thing is to ensure that the Government acts. It’s about actions, not the words we use.”

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