Britain rallies on climate change in mass lobby

More than 9,000 people flocked to Westminster to urge MPs to back action on global warming, in the largest demo of its kind

TKTK On lawns outside the Houses of Parliament (Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images for Climate Coalition)

Nuns, bee keepers and surfers gather on lawns outside the Houses of Parliament (John Phillips/Getty Images for Climate Coalition)

By Alex Pashley

Thousands of Britons lobbied lawmakers along London’s river Thames on Wednesday in a grassroots event to spur climate action.

Rickshaws ferried members of parliament to face huddles of concerned voters, who travelled from all over the United Kingdom to Westminster to scrutinise representatives’ plans on environment.

More than 9,000 people – from nuns, bee keepers to surfers – urged MPs to take a stand on curbing global warming, making it the country’s largest ever climate-related lobby, said organisers The Climate Coalition.

Six months ahead of a crunch summit in Paris, campaigners are calling on politicians to sign a robust accord and move toward a greener economy.


Sadiq Khan (left), Labour MP and candidate for London mayor in a rickshaw with an aide (photo: Alex Pashley)

A campaigner holds a placard made from bottle tops on a bridge over the River Thames

A campaigner holds a placard made from bottle tops on a bridge over the River Thames (photo: Alex Pashley)

The three main parties signed a joint statement before May’s general election committing the winners to push for a “fair, strong, legally binding” global pact, and uphold targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 from 1990 levels.

Supporters say the Conservative government, which to pollsters’ surprise won a majority last month, will increase the UK’s clout on climate. But campaigners are concerned about its enthusiasm for shale gas fracking and manifesto pledge to scale back onshore wind power.

Climate change was largely ignored in the election campaign, with Britain’s economic recovery and immigration driving debate.

Louise Graham travelled from Darlington in north-east England to lobby her MP, of the opposition Labour party.

“Climate change is the biggest danger facing mankind. The thing that frustrates me as a mother two is the cogs churn so slowly, and nothing gets done,” she told RTCC.

“We have to do something to counter the huge lobbying power of big business in defending a fossil-fuel status quo. That’s why we’ve come,” said Caroline White, a campaigner at 38 Degrees.

Over half of the UK’s 650 MPs had been lobbied over the day, either in person or by email, organisers said.

Constituents raised topics from global climate treaty to local air pollution levels near to iconic London landmarks like The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. Constituents were feisty, and MPs that attended generally played ball to answer their worries.

Conservative MP Alex Chalk tells constituents climate change "is front and centre of what needs to be done"

Conservative MP Alex Chalk tells constituents climate change “is front and centre of our priorities” (photo: Alex Pashley)


Campaigners await representatives lined out with respect to their region (photo: Alex Pashley)

Nick Herbert, a Conservative MP for Arundel and South Downs, defended his party’s record on climate through the last government.

“We’ve trebled the amount of renewables and are pushing for a binding agreement in Paris. Waiting to act on climate is un-Conservative,” he told RTCC amid a huddle of a dozen constituents.

Derek Thomas, Conservative MP for St Ives in southern England, outlined his constituency’s potential for tidal lagoon and geothermal energy. St Ives was braced for European Union funds to develop green projects, which would “bring skilled jobs to the area”.

Though not all supported the government’s record.

Dennis Skinner, an acid-tongued veteran Labour party politician first elected in 1970 said the Conservatives were “against climate change”.

“By and large they go to conferences and give the overall impression they are in favour, but you know as well as me it’s about the detail. They believe in market forces, and are diametrically opposed to doing things to control the climate,” said Skinner, the son of coal miner and MP for Bolsover, Derbyshire.

A similar mass climate lobby is planned in the United States soon, RTCC understands.

“It’s been a really good atmosphere, thousands will go back to their communities energised,” said Andy Cummins, a campaigner at Surfers Against Sewage in Cornwall. “I’m buoyed at least 180 MPs have come out to talk about this key issue.”

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