Running out of time to save the planet – Ray Cobbett of Friends of the Earth

Extinction Rebellion protesters march from their camp in Marble Arch down Park Lane in London.
Extinction Rebellion protesters march from their camp in Marble Arch down Park Lane in London.

Public opinion will always be divided over whether it is more effective to make a point on the streets or in the corridors of power.

Protests by groups such as Extinction Rebellion and David Attenborough’s BBC documentary on climate change serves to remind us the situation is much too serious to quibble over how people protest when it’s why they are protesting that’s really important.

True, the UK is not among the five countries whose greenhouse gas emissions add up to more than 50 per cent of the global figure except to note that were it not for China, which makes much of what we buy, it would be a lot higher.

Last year the government launched its 25-year Green Plan by setting targets on cleaner air and water, protecting habitats and scrapping diesel cars.

2050 has been hailed as the year by which it will all be achieved.

But scientists and leading economists have given us until 2030 to avoid a catastrophic rise in average temperatures so it’s going to take a lot more than warnings of doom to make any real progress while there’s time.

Some local councils are doing their bit with both Portsmouth City and West Sussex county councils bringing forward motions on achieving carbon neutrality by 2030 in areas over which they have influence.

Measures could include improving the energy efficiency of council-owned estate, boosting renewable energy capacity and pushing for higher than minimum standards on new builds.

Huge opportunities exist for improving transport by replacing transport fleets with electric or hydrogen powered vehicles and extending the network of recharging points.

But the biggest challenge is political leadership with the vision and drive to re-imagine a future not dependent on outdated notions of fossil fuel powered economic growth.

In recent times sovereignty has become the dominant public issue but flag-waving and nationalism won’t help to save us from extinction.