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LBC Views: Are climate groups simply doing more harm than good?
13 September 2021, 17:26
It sparked fury like I have rarely seen, writes Rachael Venables, after reporting live from the scene as Insulate Britain activists stormed the M25 in today's rush hour demonstration.
At the latest climate change protests in London, I watched drivers scream horrendous abuse into the faces of female activists who just stood and took it. While car doors slammed and horns blared, fingers were pointed at the line of protesters, who sat quietly on the road holding up handmade signs that said “SORRY.”
Members of ‘Insulate Britain’ had fliers and biscuits ready to hand out to drivers by way of apology, but it would have taken far more than that to calm tempers.
I also saw one man, swearing, “I’ll clear the road then”, as he tried to drag an elderly protester up by his armpits before being hastily stopped by other members of the public.
It reminded me of the awful scenes at Canning Town in 2019, when Extinction Rebellion protesters were beaten for climbing onto a DLR train. That was a moment even most Extinction Rebellion activists will admit “they got wrong.”
In fact, XR were quick and keen to distance themselves from the methods seen today, even though they are largely supportive of their demands for the Government to insulate all homes by 2030.
One XR group tweeted “what possible reason could there be for the UK *not* to insulate its social housing stock over the next 9 years?”
Because, when you ignore the methods and think only of the motives, ‘Insulate Britain’ come with a compelling argument.
I had no idea how much energy was lost each year by our leaky, inefficient housing stock, and I only had a faint notion that a Government plan to pay for insulation through grants had been embarrassingly scrapped just months earlier.
Insulate Britain’s actions today has certainly put that conversation back front and centre, and it pushed climate change back up the agenda again, where it belongs but so rarely sits.
But their actions also made people late for work and cost them money - one of them, I kid you not, was a builder who works in insulating housing; children were late to school, patients missed hospital appointments and no doubt some travellers missed flights.
The question we must ask, as these sort of protests become more and more common, is can they really achieve their goals, or are climate groups simply doing more harm than good?
Last month, Sadiq Khan told LBC he was worried XR were ‘putting people off’ the climate cause.
Will Insulate Britain really be able to succeed in forcing a post-pandemic Government’s hand, or could they inadvertently end up doing do just that? That’s the tight-rope these campaigners have to walk.
One thing is for sure, expect rush-hour tempers to fray yet further as Insulate Britain tell me "it’s not over."
They plan to come back over and over again, until the Government ‘meaningfully’ accept their demands. That, you have to assume, is a tall order.