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Why Liberal Democrats Support for Extinction Rebellion and the School Climate Strikes Should be Unqualified

April 29, 2019 1:36 PM
By Simon Oliver

(What follows is personal opinion)

Climate Change has enormous momentum. It is a runaway train with gigatonnes of carbon emissions pushing it along every year, from every part of the globe. How do you stop a runaway train?

In the 2010 film about an out of control train with dangerous chemicals on board, Unstoppable, officials (after clearing the tracks) tried small, ineffectual measures, such as trying to board it, or derail it. None of them worked because they were about minimising financial loss, not about acknowledging the problem. They failed because they didn't grasp the immensity of the technical challenge. In the end it was stopped by an expert and a young rebel, both dismissed by the officials as irrelevant. They chased down the train, hooked on, and slowed it down by a mixture of guts and persistence.

In Extinction Rebellion and the School Climate Strikes we are seeing the same combination of expertise and rebelliousness, guts and persistence, that is necessary to slow down climate change. Politicians who have been fighting this fight for decades are finally able to get heard, because the rebels are making everyone listen.

We in the Green Liberal Democrats have, similarly, been fighting to be heard on environmental matters for over 40 years. Our party all too briefly had control of the Department of Energy and Climate Change (as was) as well as the business department into which it was subsumed, never to be heard from again. We did what we could to accelerate action to fight climate change. Ed Davey set in law the earth tremor threshold which today caused the government's 'Fracking Tzar' (a former Labour MP, which shows you where Labour stand on the issue) to resign in frustration. The Paris agreement was as much Ed's achievement as anyone's despite his loss of office just before it was realised.

Now people who paid us only scant attention are sitting up and taking heed. There is a Climate Emergency. We need the Green New Deal. We need to reset our ambition from zero carbon in 2050 (and we are still the only UK party advocating that target, including the putative Green Party) to 2030. Zero Carbon Britain have been telling us for years it can be done. We have to make it party policy in September, and renew our commitments to a zero waste circular economy and efforts to preserve biodiversity worldwide.

And we also have to support the people who are doing what it takes to wake people out of their stupor. We have to support those who are making people listen, and make sure our evidence and science based policies are adopted, regardless of who is actually in power.