‘Co-operate or perish!’

Reflections on how we can, and why we must, keep climate change at the top of the agenda. Published East London and Dockland Advertiser 29.3.23.

You may have noticed a lull in disruptive climate demonstrations. Londoners whose lives have been inconvenienced may welcome this. But the just-published IPCC (Interparliamentary Panel on Climate Change) report makes it clear that the climate emergency is more acute than ever. So how can it be kept at the top of the news agenda, and how can politicians be galvanised to treat it with the urgency it deserves?

The IPCC stands out in a crowded field for its breadth and depth. It comprises scientists appointed by the Governments of 195 countries. The consensus achieved by the international scientific community is remarkable in itself. The report justifies the warning given by UN Secretary-General Guterres last year that the world is on a climate ‘highway to hell’ and we must ‘cooperate or perish.’ It makes grim reading, but offers hope, provided prompt, extensive action is taken.

The lull in disruptive protest follows a declaration by Extinction Rebellion on 1 January headed ‘We quit.’  It accepts that four years of such action has achieved scant progress. It announces a temporary change of tactics. They “want to leave no one behind because everyone has a role to play. This year, we prioritise attendance over arrest and relationships over roadblocks, as we stand together and become impossible to ignore.”

An early test will be what they call ‘The Big One.’ The event is being staged over the long weekend of 21 – 24 April in Westminster. Its focus is politicians and the heart of Government. Significantly, it is supported by dozens of less ‘controversial’ groups ranging from trade unions to Friends of the Earth, from nurses to the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development.

There are of course many ways to campaign apart from public protest. Humanists UK, for example, is a member of The Climate Coalition, the UK’s largest such coalition. It advocates for greater investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy and zero carbon transport, and ending support for fossil fuel extraction.  Government action falls far short on all of these. 

The global acceleration in climate-driven floods and fires gives a terrifying insight into what’s at stake. This is not a drill. It is a mainstream crisis that affects us all. Each of us can, and should, in our own way step up the pressure on Government to do more. Surely there is no greater priority.

Paul Kaufman.
Chair, East London Humanists

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