Extinction Rebellion Wandsworth prepare for two weeks of protests

Extinction Rebellion (XR) Wandsworth is gearing up for two weeks of protests following the Sixth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published last week.

Extinction Rebellion has called for an ‘Impossible Rebellion’ that will target the City of London starting on 23 August, following warnings from the report that humanity is running out of time to stop temperature rises exceeding 2°C.

Caroline Hartnell from Extinction Rebellion Wandsworth said that they found the report harrowing but unsurprising, and that the next few years were going to be crucial.

Hartnell said: “The report makes dire reading, but there is still hope that we have time to turn things around.

“We’ve seen what has been happening with extreme weather events, and XR has been giving these timescales from the start, it’s now urgent to get on with the rebellion.

“We want to break out of our bubble and make ourselves available for people to talk to, and we will be doing this locally in Wandsworth as well.”

Hartnell says that the first part of the rebellion will be a series of crisis talks where pink tables will be set up in streets and parks across London for members of the public to visit and voice their climate crisis concerns.

The second part of the rebellion will focus on the City of London’s fossil fuel funding, which Hartnell says is continuing, and in vast amounts.

Exact plans for this part of the protest have not yet been released.

Extinction Rebellion was previously criticised, in 2019, for its protesting tactics when activists blocked the Docklands Light Railway and Jubilee Line during rush hour, leading to clashes between protestors and the public. 

Extinction Rebellion Wandsworth is a volunteer-led group of roughly 750 members.

Hartnell, 71, joined the movement in 2018 hopeful that it might make a difference.

“I have three grandchildren aged 19, 10 and five, and my fears for their future, and the future of all the world’s children, and what sort of planet we are leaving for them, motivate me more than anything,” she said.

The group has been active since the easing of lockdown, taking part in national events but also organising local protests and information sharing activities.

Hartnell said that their main focus has been a Wake up Wandsworth campaign, which calls for Wandsworth Council, who declared a climate emergency in July 2019, to do something about air pollution, food waste, and protecting green spaces in the area, while also demanding divestment of their pension fund from fossil fuels. 

Hartnell said: “Wandsworth Council aims to be carbon free by 2030 but have done very little about it.

“Their emissions count for 3% of the borough’s emissions, so this is a very limited ambition.”

As part of this campaign, the group convenes outside the council’s offices every Wednesday to continue pressing their demands and to provide information for the local community, who Hartnell says have been extremely interested.

A Wandsworth Council spokesman said: “The council is implementing a vast range of measures to help us achieve our ambitious target of becoming a carbon neutral organisation by 2030.

“This includes action to green our vehicle fleet and our pension fund, plant thousands of new trees, explore food waste recycling, support the switch from petrol and diesel to electric vehicles and introduce energy efficiency measures in our housing blocks.

“Our efforts to date have been positively highlighted in an independent report produced by University College London which evaluated councils on their ability to lower carbon emissions. 

“This report placed Wandsworth third out of all councils evaluated. The report’s authors recognised that we are delivering real action against our climate change commitments and judged us to be out-performing other local authorities.”

Actions that the council says it has taken towards its ambition include organising a climate summit for residents, accessing funding for e-cargo bikes for their services and local businesses, a move towards purchasing zero-carbon renewable electricity, accessing Green Homes Grant funding, and increased EV charging points.

The council also say that their pension fund is poised to go greener by reducing investments in carbon intensive industries and switching funding to renewable energy companies.

Extinction Rebellion members gathered outside Town Hall

Hartnell said that while the group welcomes environmental initiatives from the council, such as the recent pilot food waste management programme launched in preparation for their next waste and recycling contract commencing in 2024, there is a general lack of urgency and ambition in the council’s actions.

She added: “We regard 2024 as ludicrously late.

“There is no need for a pilot programme, neighbouring boroughs collect food waste very successfully, including Richmond, which Wandsworth has a close partnership with.”

Once a month the group also organises bigger events, such as the March for Life action, which took place on 24 July, during which protestors marched from Balham to Tooting Broadway carrying a large black coffin in memory of the 300 people a year who die prematurely in Wandsworth due to air pollution.

Extinction Rebellion Protestors at March for Life protest

It’s looking to be a busy year for Extinction Rebellion Wandsworth with the release of the IPCC report and leading up to the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), which will take place in Glasgow from 31 October – 12 November 2021.

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