Why we staged council chamber protest

'Rebels' from Extinction Rebellion outside Enfield Civic Centre in January, when they disrupted a council meeting
‘Rebels’ from Extinction Rebellion outside Enfield Civic Centre in January, when they disrupted a council meeting

Julie Reeves from Extinction Rebellion Enfield explains the group’s frustration at the council’s climate inaction

At a full meeting of Enfield Council in January, rebels from the local group of Extinction Rebellion briefly disrupted proceedings to remind councillors of the climate crisis – and their notable lack of action following the ’emergency’ they declared last July.

We stood up in the chamber to read out a declaration explaining why we felt compelled to take this disruptive action. We pointed out that while the council had committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2030, six months on this target was being treated with a severe lack of urgency.

We highlighted that in this time the council has met just twice to discuss the issue, and that there has been no commitment to switching to a renewable energy supplier in order to reduce its own carbon footprint, or to divest the council’s pension fund away from fossil fuel companies within a set timeframe.

In addition, the local authority continues to support plans for the rebuilding of Edmonton Incinerator, instead of considering more environmentally sound options. When complete, the new incinerator is set to release up to 700,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, adversely affecting air quality and particularly impacting some of the borough’s poorest residents.

Extinction Rebellion Enfield has had several meetings and email communications with the council since it declared its climate emergency, and as well as asking for a switch to a renewable power supplier [see editor’s note] and pension fund divestment, the group has also asked for a baseline to be established for the council’s carbon emissions so that this may be used to measure progress towards achieving the net zero carbon emissions target.

None of these requests have been met with action. Instead, the council has said that it will take a year to finalise a strategy, and that it moves slowly because it is a large organisation with over 8,000 employees. Despite this, only one part-time consultant has been assigned to address the issue.

In our view, this does not reflect the desperate urgency of the situation. The council has made its declaration and benefited from being seen to do the right thing with regard to the climate crisis but, so far, its commitment is hollow because nothing tangible has been put in place.

The rebels who disrupted the council meeting said that “wearing the badge of climate change without taking concrete action is nothing short of green washing”.

Editor’s note:
Last month the council announced that its corporate buildings will start using green electricity from October.