Eco-vandals make future climate chaos more likely, not less - the next government must reinforce the rule of law

20 June 2024, 22:36

Ministers should implement the recommendations from my review into political violence and disruption, says Lord Walney.
Ministers should implement the recommendations from my review into political violence and disruption, says Lord Walney. Picture: Alamy
  • Lord Walney is an Independent Peer & Adviser on Political Violence and Disruption to the UK Government

By Lord Walney

It is no surprise that militant protest groups are able to keep finding activists prepared to commit wanton vandalism when such a pathetically small number are currently being successfully brought to justice.

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Just Stop Oil brag that their members are unafraid of going to prison when in fact they must know that the vast majority are getting away with it at present.

The next government must get the criminal justice system back on its feet. The delays in getting people to trial and strain under which the Criminal Prosecution Service is operating is a big problem.

Ministers should implement the recommendations from my review into political violence and disruption. They should place restrictions on groups who use law breaking as a core tactic to coerce governments and voters into getting their way. Such organisations who wrongly think they are justified in breaking the law and making people’s lives a misery should be banned from fundraising and using social media to recruit and broadcast their crimes.

And all political parties should make clear that breaking the law to get noticed and force your way into the conversation is not on and will not work. They should instruct all their elected representatives not to engage with groups that behave in this way, working instead with people who seek to win over their fellow citizens rather than coercing them.

The saddest thing is that the arrogance of the eco-vandals risks setting the climate movement back many vital years – something to which these activists seem oblivious, despite many of them enjoying very expensive educations from elite institutions.

At the very moment, the world is entering a climate crisis with an urgent need for more people rallying to the cause, these extreme acts are alienating the public, who by large majorities hate the disruption and sense they are being menaced. Far from being the altruistic saviours of the planet as they like to imagine themselves, these agitators are among the biggest risks to climate action getting the mass support it needs to succeed.

In fact, the one thing extreme protesters targeting our art and culture are likely to achieve is to restrict the public’s ability to get close to the art, culture and heritage that binds us together. It would be sad, yet sadly predictable, if the result of Just Stop Oil’s desecration were to see the prehistoric structure enclosed in a ring of ugly steel. And airport style security deployed at galleries and public performances that may already be struggling financially after recent campaigns to scare away any funding that has even tangential links to fossil fuels or the defence industry.

The next government should do its bit in toughening up and properly resourcing the courts to restore deterrence in the system and reinforce the rule of law. And I hope other climate activists will be able to convince the extremists that their actions are completely counter-productive – the eco-vandals make future climate chaos more likely, not less.


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