Environment minister Zac Goldsmith says Extinction Rebellion protests ‘do work’

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Defra Minister Lord Zac Goldsmith (Steve Parsons/PA) (PA Archive)
Defra Minister Lord Zac Goldsmith (Steve Parsons/PA) (PA Archive)

Environment minister Zac Goldsmith has said that protests by Extinction Rebellion “do work”, and that their tactics reflect the “real anxiety” over global warming felt by the general public.

Lord Goldsmith, a former Tory candidate for Mayor of London, said that the planet is “heading towards the cliff” if international governments do not urgently bring down emissions.

He told BBC Radio 4’s The Week in Westminster: “I think there’s a real anxiety. I see it all the time whenever I go to an international event – there are protests outside, and I speak to the people involved.

“There is a real sense of anxiety that we are heading towards the cliff and we’re not doing enough – and that’s true, we’re not.

“And that kind of pressure does work. It may be annoying, but it works. I’ve seen even as a minister, the increased pressure that we get from constituents onto their MPs and then back onto their ministers as a consequence of activities that some of these organisations get involved in.”

His comments, first reported by The i, come days after five protesters from Just Stop Oil climbed motorway signs on the M25 in response to the extreme temperatures and what they describe as the Government’s “inadequate preparations” for climate change.

Supporters of the group had earlier this month glued themselves to a major artwork in the National Gallery and had also invaded the track at Silverstone to disrupt the British Grand Prix.

On Tuesday, XR protesters smashed windows at the News UK office buildings to demonstrate against what they called “failure of the (Rupert) Murdoch press to cover the heatwave and climate crisis”.

Temperatures soared past the 40C mark in swathes of the UK earlier this week, with experts pointing out that climate change would increase the frequency of extreme heat.

Tory leadership candidates Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss have been criticised for failing to outline their climate strategy, though Lord Goldsmith has given his backing to the foreign secretary.

Asked whether he would support calls for a pardon for protesters, Lord Goldsmith said: “It depends. I don’t know what individually they’re doing time for, or what they were convicted on. But the principle is absolutely right.”

However, he said that he did not agree with more extreme protests.

“I think you do have to pick your strategies very carefully. Stopping ambulances and things, it’s not going to win any friends,” he said.

“I think there are ways of protesting which will raise support and there are other ways which will alienate. And ultimately unless the mainstream people of this country and indeed around the world are on board, we haven’t got a hope.”

The Standard has contacted the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs for further comment.

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