The problem with the M25 Insulate Britain climate protests is not that they are disrupting the motorway to demand action on the climate emergency, but that there are not yet millions of people (particularly parents) out there joining them.
Hordes of Britons should be taking similar action after last week’s terrifying Chatham House report that revealed that even if global governments fulfilled their pledges under the Paris Climate agreement, we would still only have a 5 per cent chance of not breaching a catastrophic rise of 2C.
This was then followed by the UNFCC report on Friday, which revealed that current pledges by governments would result not in a cut – but a rise in global emissions of 16 per cent by 2030.
These reports translate into a truly global “code red” warning that could lead to more frequent famines, wildfires, flooding and droughts by 2050. This year’s global extreme weather catastrophes are a mere taster for what is to come when the current generation of kids are in their 40s.
As former government chief adviser Dr David King rightly said this week, there is simply no safe carbon budget left. We need to decarbonise the global economy as fast as humanly possible – this is a full scale alert.
Yet despite the science, the UK government appears bent on expanding coal, oil and gas fields, investing billions in new roads and airports and cutting taxes on fossil fuel and aviation passenger duties. Decades of voting, protests, lobbying and petitions have not resulted in the action required, despite repeated polls showing the public wants the government to do far more.
Watch: Driver launches passionate rant at M25 protesters causing delays for fourth time
What we have therefore is a massive failure of democracy to act with the necessary urgency to protect Britain and the wider world from the breakdown in civilisation now threatening us, as Sir David Attenborough put it. Thus, the only effective tool left to climate protectors in a liberal democracy is mass peaceful (but disruptive) direct action, along the lines being carried out by Insulate Britain.
Their demand is for all social housing be insulated by 2025 and all the rest of our housing by 2030; following reports that 28,000 people in England and Wales died due to “excess winter deaths” last year (research compares the number of deaths that occurred in the winter period, with the non-winter periods – the study excluded deaths from Covid-19).
We can predict that 5.7 million kids and adults and pensioners live in fuel poverty in the UK, where many have to choose between heat and food in winter (2.4million households x average household size of 2.4 = 5.7) . We also know that around 15 per cent of UK domestic emissions come from home heating.
As the UK has one of the oldest and worst insulated housing stocks in Europe, our homes emit on average 2.25 tons of carbon for heating – and about a third of this heat is wasted through badly insulated walls, ceilings, windows and doors.
This has got to be got down to net zero by 2030 at the latest, but the Tory government has, since 2014, appeared hell bent on slowing down the improvement of our home insulation.
Not only have they abolished the Green Deal insulation scheme and Green Homes Scheme, but they’ve also gotten rid of free loft and wall insulation grants for homeowners who aren’t on benefits and slashed billions from social housing insulation schemes since 2014.
If we did what the Insulate Britain climate protectors are calling for, we would effectively save thousands of lives, remove millions from hunger and fuel poverty, slash heating bills for everybody, radically reduce fossil gas imports and reduce our domestic carbon emissions.
It is a win, win – and what these protesters are demanding is a no-brainer. The chancellor Rishi Sunak, in this autumn’s budget, must put in place an investment programme to not only insulate all social housing by 2025 and all housing by 2030; but to also ensure every home has a zero carbon heating source.
The protesters are our protectors – and must be listened to. We all need to act accordingly.
Watch: Environmental protesters block M25