Twelve thousand people travelled from around the country to speak to their local MP last week, in the largest ever environmental lobby of Parliament.
A total of 220 MPs took part, and were taken by rickshaw to meet constituents in the area surrounding the Palace of Westminster
Space for solutions
Research conducted by the Climate Coalition and Greener UK has found that 71 percent of Brits want their local MP to support ambitious plans to protect the natural environment and tackle climate change.
The mass lobby aims to prompt the introduction of an Environment Bill that would tackle air pollution and species extinction, and to ensure that the government’s recent commitment to net zero emissions becomes a reality by 2045.
Speaking to The Ecologist, Beccy Speight, CEO of the Woodland Trust, said: “Today’s event is about stepping into the solutions space. We’re very keen that we now get government and MPs focused on what we’re going to do about this, which is why we really wanted to make sure we had those face to face conversations with MPs.
"It’s important to keep pushing the nature crisis and the climate crisis up the agenda, it’s got to remain among the top issues in Parliament.
"I really hope we’ve really got MPs thinking about what some of the solutions are and could be.”
Sounding the alarm
At 2pm, the crowd of campaigners set off hundreds of alarm clocks to symbolise the need for politicians to ‘wake up’ to the current environmental crisis.
Influential figures were involved in the day, including former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams who took part in a ‘Walk of Witness’ from Trafalgar Square down Whitehall.
Presenter and author Steve Backshall tweeted a selfie from the event: “With the vocal far-from-silent majority. The #climatecoalition is bringing us together; wildlife & conservation groups, young & old, all parties, faiths & backgrounds”.
Jose Batista Gonçalves Afonso, a human rights defender from the Brazilian Amazon, travelled to the lobby to speak to MPs and campaigners about the reality of climate change in his local area. He said: “Today the situation is totally out of control.
"Without a doubt the changes in climate [in the region I am from] are related to the deforestation of this part of Amazon. Sometimes we think we can’t do anything, especially those living far away, outside the Amazon. But each of us can do something. We can find out what is happening in the Amazon and get involved.”
Calls for concern
The lobby follows a number of protests during the first half of 2019 organised by the likes of Extinction Rebellionand Youth Strike 4 Climate, involving hundreds of thousands of children and adults across the world.
In response, the UK government announced a state of climate emergency in May and committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 in June.
The event also comes in the wake of a stream of recent findings about the likely impact of climate change and the scale of mass extinction.
The United Nations’ International Panel on Climate Change 2018 reportpredicts that even limiting warming to 1.5℃ would still cause the death of at least 31 million people. The UN has warned that around one million species are now threatened with extinction; and earlier this month, a polar bear was found wandering the streets of Siberia.
Meanwhile, the US government has rolled back the previous administration’s Clean Power Plan, thousands of new pesticides have been approved by Brazil’s government, and G20 countries have more than tripled coal subsidies in recent years.
Time for change
Attendees of the event describe a positive atmosphere and a collaborative approach from MPs and campaigners alike.
Dr. Paul Kelly travelled to London from Settle in North Yorkshire and spoke to his MP, Julian Smith, during the lobby: “People were saying, ‘we’ve come here to support you to do some difficult things,’ and that was a nice angle which I tried to emphasise.
"Julian was keen to say what had already been done, but I said to him ‘thousands of people have all taken the trouble to come here today because they actually want to enable you to step forward more boldly’.”
Speight added: “We are absolutely at a tipping point in terms of making the right decisions around this stuff. We do not have much time.
"It doesn’t feel like it’s a problem right now but it absolutely is. MPs really do listen to people power so we’ve got to keep demonstrating that.”
Becca Warner is a freelance journalist and copywriter, focusing on environmentalism and the future. She writes regularly for Atlas of the Future and has also written about environmental justice for charities If Not Us Then Who and Size of Wales.
Image: Joe Newman and Greenhouse PR.