M25 closure: Who are Insulate Britain and what were they protesting?

14 September 2021, 15:21 | Updated: 14 September 2021, 18:20

Insulate Britain staged protests on the M25 yesterday, causing travel chaos
Insulate Britain staged protests on the M25 yesterday, causing travel chaos. Picture: LBC
Rachael Venables

By Rachael Venables

Climate action group Insulate Britain closed the M25 on Monday, causing travel chaos for tens of thousands of drivers.

But who are Insulate Britain, and what do they want?

Who are Insulate Britain?

Insulate Britain are a climate change campaign group who have been holding campaign meetings since at least June 2021, and were officially formed in August. Some call them an offshoot of environmental activist group Extinction Rebellion (XR) because they used similar road-blocking tactics and many of their members have been previously involved with XR. However the two groups are not officially linked.

Read more: ‘Insulate Britain’: 92 arrests after climate change protesters cause chaos on M25

Read more: M25 traffic cameras capture vast queues sparked by Insulate Britain protest

What do they want?

The group want to put pressure on the Government ahead of the climate change conference COP26, which will be hosted in Glasgow in November. They list two demands, which they want the Government to ‘meaningfully’ respond to – before backing down.

  1. That the UK Government immediately promises to fully fund and take responsibility for the insulation of all social housing in Britain by 2025
  2. That the UK government immediately promises to produce within four months a legally binding national plan to fully fund and take responsibility for the full low-energy and low-carbon whole-house retrofit, with no externalised costs, of all homes in Britain by 2030 as part of a just transition to full decarbonisation of all parts of society and the economy.

Why do they want to Insulate Britain?

The group say the UK has around 29 million homes, which are the "oldest and least energy efficient housing stock in Europe". They say nearly 15 per cent of the UK's emissions are 'wasted' emissions from heating - and cooling - these 'leaky' homes, and around 19 million homes need to be insulated to enable the UK to meet its climate change targets.

However, the Green Homes Grant, promising to improve 600,000 homes, was scrapped in March 2021 having reached just 10 per cent of the homes promised.

Insulate Britain say that this scheme would create thousands of jobs, save tens of thousands from fuel poverty, and be the most cost-effective 'pound for pound' way of combatting carbon emissions.

Why did they block the M25?

They believe direct action like this is the only way to pressure the Government to take the problem seriously. The stunt was designed to garner maximum publicity, and to be enough of a disruption that it will force the Government to act to stop them.

Read more: M25 Protest: 'Furious' mother rages daughter 'left in bits' by climate change demo

Josh, a builder who helped block the M25 at Junction 20 in Hertfordshire, told LBC: "The science for climate change has been understood for the last 30 years, people have been campaigning, writing letters, doing interviews and marches.

"Every single thing that could be tried has been tried, and the Government are still investing billions into fossil fuels.

"By causing mass disruption, history has shown it is the most successful way to get mass change, for example, Suffragettes getting votes for women, Ghandi and Martin Luther King all used the same tactics."

What are they planning to do next?

The group have been clear from the start that they won’t stop until the Government ‘meaningfully’ accept their demands. On Monday they put out a press statement saying "We have to keep going", vowing to cause further disruption "until government gets on with the job of insulating Britain's homes". They certainly plan to keep trying, the question is - how will the police respond now they know who they are and what they want to do?