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PERHAPS it’s because of the pandemic, but Extinction Rebellion’s public opinion-shifting occupations of central London in 2018 and 2019 now feel a very long time ago.
Since then successive Tory governments, ignoring increasingly loud warnings from scientists and the intensification of the climate crisis, have maintained their addiction to fossil fuels and have missed their own net zero climate targets on nearly every front.
In response to this inaction numerous grassroots groups have sprung up in Britain, often led by young campaigners.
If, like me, you sometimes get confused by all the actions and organisations, here is a summary of some of the key players and what they’ve been up to.
Just Stop Oil
The most obvious descendent of Extinction Rebellion, Just Stop Oil’s confrontational — always non-violent — actions have the fingers of XR co-founder Roger Hallam and his supporters all over them.
Established in February 2022 with the aim of stopping the British government licensing new oil, coal and gas projects, the group has undertaken a huge number and range of actions, including gluing themselves to the frames of famous paintings, slow-walking on roads to hold-up traffic and disrupting high profile sporting events.
By May Just Stop Oil had reported over 2,100 arrests, with 138 people spending time in prison, many without trial.
There has been a lot of discussion about whether their actions are effective. And while a February YouGov poll found 78 per cent of respondents thought disruptive protests hinders, rather than helps a cause, a more hopeful July survey of 120 experts found nearly seven in 10 rated disruptive protest tactics as “at least quite important” to the success of a movement.
Green New Deal Rising
Launched in August 2021, Green New Deal Rising is a movement of young people working to win a Green New Deal for Britain — that is a rapid and radical transformation of the economy to address the climate crisis.
They regularly release videos of activists challenging politicians about their actions, and gained lots of coverage recently when they interrupted Keir Starmer’s speech on education.
In March Green New Deal Rising commenced its Labour Be Bold campaign, with activists picketing Labour Party MPs constituency offices every Friday.
“Labour have been backsliding on their commitment to climate action, so we need to put pressure on them to do the right thing and back a Green New Deal,” a Green New Deal Rising spokesperson tells me.
“We know that a Green New Deal will tackle climate change and improve living standards. The public are in favour of bold climate policy when economic justice is prioritised, and the Green New Deal does exactly that.
“We want wealth taxes, public ownership of essential services, a green jobs guarantee and a secure income for all. This is about investing in our future.”
The Labour Be Bold campaign is building towards the Labour Party conference taking place in October.
“There is more to come. We will keep organising, keep mobilising, keep the pressure up.”
This Is Not A Drill
“We’re an action reporting website which focuses on amplifying anonymous direct action against fossil fuel companies and their partners,” This Is Not A Drill explains.
“Anyone can take climate action and report it through us provided no harm is caused to people, animals or other types of life.”
They don’t have any formal aims or methods, though are guided by three basic principles — carrying out direct action against fossil fuels, decentralisation and anonymity.
“We are sceptical about the idea of arrest as a strategy in environmental movements and we support an alternative,” they note.
“We know that sometimes it can be tactically necessary to take that risk, but we specifically focus on the types of actions where people aim to get away safely without being accountable to their oppressors.”
The most recent action reported on their website is of activists smashing windows at the Schlumberger Cambridge Research Centre in protest against the oilfield service’s company’s extractivist activity.
Fossil Free London
With their media-savvy, creative actions, Fossil Free London feels like the progeny of mid-2000s non-violent direct action groups like Plane Stupid and Climate Rush.
They aim to make the capital “inhospitable to the fossil fuel industry and the banks that fund it,” their website notes.
“The climate crisis is made in London,” Joanna Warrington, spokesperson for Fossil Free London, says. “The capital’s financial sector is the global engine of the fossil fuel industry, with banks like Barclays pouring millions in oil and gas production every day.
“London plays host to some of the world’s biggest climate-wrecking oil companies — like Shell and BP — as well as the UK government which enables them.”
In May they gained lots of media coverage for their singalong disruption of Shell’s annual general meeting.
“Go to hell, Shell, and don’t you come back no more, no more!” they sung to the tune of Ray Charles’s hit song.
"We’re preparing for our biggest mobilisation yet — Oily Money Out,” Warrington reveals.
“On the 14-20th October, mega-rich oil bosses and their financiers are all coming to London for the ‘Energy Intelligence Forum’ — formerly self-named the ‘Oil and Money’ conference (yes, really!).
“We’re organising six days of workshops, demonstrations and disruptions to protest those accelerating climate catastrophe, and say no to oily money in our city. We’re inviting climate activist groups from across Europe to join us, and you should too.”
This Is Rigged
This Is Rigged, a Scottish non-violent direct action group set up in early 2023, has two demands. First, that the Scottish government oppose all fossil fuel projects in Scotland. And second, that the Scottish government create a clear and fully funded transition for oil and gas workers.
“This government is all talk no trousers,” spokesperson Emma Brown says about the SNP-Green government. “When it comes down to it, on the big questions and the local issues, they’re not brave enough.”
Brown continues: “Climate is not a separate issue from progressive campaigning. We are being let down on multiple fronts, from the silence on new oil and gas projects in our North Sea, the destruction of social housing, the selling off of community land to an oil tycoon [Sir Ian Wood] for bullshit carbon capture in Torry, to the scrapping of our night bus services in Glasgow.”
Their brilliantly quirky website highlights recent actions including activists smashing the case holding William Wallace’s sword in Stirling, repeatedly disrupting First Ministers Questions and spraying red paint on the Scottish Parliament.
“Into autumn and winter we’ll be actively taking inspiration from successful Scottish movements which challenged poverty, and developing ways to connect the crises we face,” Brown explains, noting: “Direct action is an effective tool to force political and social change.”
“Business-as-usual is maintained by our isolation, our depression and our hopelessness but collective action, defiance and a bit of cheekiness are our best weapons against it.”
Climate Majority Project
Founded in June, the Climate Majority Project is based on the idea there are huge numbers of people who agree with the aims of groups like Just Stop Oil but don’t see themselves as activists, or may not be able or want to take non-violent direct action that could lead to arrest.
“Climate Majority Project works to find the common ground where Swampy and Lord Deben can both stand,” co-director Dr Rupert Read tells me.
“We are engaging with communities, businesses, actors and producers, farmers, scientists, and beyond to help various sectors of society organise amongst themselves and with each other to address this civilisational crisis. There is no way we get to actually win this without the majority on board.”
They are currently working with advertisers trying to use the dark arts to help the environment, Lawyers For Net Zero, and MP Watch, a network pushing MPs to take urgent climate action.
Jadzia Tedeschi, the group’s operations manager says: “Climate Majority Project is refreshing as it understands and isn’t afraid to say that most people, workers and leaders alike, are becoming silently sick of business as usual, and are determined to do something effective about it.”
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