‘I will not be a bystander’: Two years on from Parliament’s declaration of climate emergency local resident takes action in Hereford with 100s of others around the UK 

On West Street, Hereford at 11am today, a local womanstopped traffic for half an hour by peacefully sitting in the road wearing a sign that read ‘I’m terrified as a parent, because of the climate crisis’. 

As she sat in the way of oncoming traffic, Cathy Monkleyrisked her life in order to speak out about Government inaction on climate two years on from Parliament’s declaration of an environment and climate emergency. 

But Cathy was not alone. Around the country, 100s of people just like her, terrified about where we are heading, took the same action in their home towns. As lockdown rules began to lift in the UK, people blocked roads from Aberdeen to Birmingham to Yarmouth and beyond, to say they will no longer stand by while the UK Government lies to the public about its feeble plans to tackle the climate crisis.[1] 

The action was part of an approach developed during the Covid-19 pandemic by members of Extinction Rebellion, in which people can engage in civil disobedience alone, yet united. 

Cathy, aged 61, a retired nurse from Herefordshire said: 

“I’m doing this because I’m a parent and am going to be a grandparent, but I’m doing it for all our children. 

Speaking about Greta Thunberg and the millions of school strikers, Cathy said “It’s shameful that they need to take time off school and take to the streets to demand a decent future. All parents want their children to thrive and have a happy, fulfilling life, free from fear, hunger and trauma, so we Elders must stand up for them and demand that our governments bring greenhouse gas emissions to an end”.

Two years ago today the UK Parliament declared an environment and climate emergency. Yet in February this year, the chief executive of the Environment Agency Sir James Bevan said that the UK is hitting the worst case environmental scenarios. If human activity is left unchecked, nature will be destroyed, crops will fail, and all that we need for a civilised society will collapse. The Committee on Climate Change and the National Audit Office who are tasked with monitoring the Government are warning the public that their climate plans are failing to materialise. Our leaders are still not taking this seriously. It’s time for ordinary people to step up and demand action. [2]

Cathy sat peacefully in the road, while some of the bystanders raged at her and many more quietly voiced their support. Some cars squeezed past her, unable to wait the few minutes before the police arrived. Cathy was arrested and taken to Hereford police station.

The action comes amid growing unrest around the Police, Crimes, Sentencing and Courts Bill. Rebellion of One is just one part of a huge day of action on International Workers’ Day across the UK defending the right to speak truth to power and standing up for the right to protest.

As we emerge from the devastation of COVID-19, the UK Government is telling the public it has the climate and ecological crisis in hand. With the eyes of the world on the UK – the hosts of the COP26 climate summit – the Prime Minister claims the government is committed to ‘building back greener’ from the pandemic. However, in the past 6 months, £27bn has been invested in new roads and the Heathrow third runway is back on.[3][4] A report by Positive Money found that by June last year 56% of COVID funding distributed by the Bank of England went to carbon intensive industries, including airlines, car manufacturers and oil and gas companies.[5] 

The Committee on Climate Change said in its progress report last June that the UK has failed on 17 out of 21 progress indicators, that only two of 31 key policy milestones had been met over the year since parliament declared the emergency. [6] In December last year, the National Audit Office found that the UK Government is predicted to fail to meet its existing climate targets and said that a radical reassessment of priorities was needed. [7]

Cathy and other people taking action today hope to make clear that they can no longer trust the UK Government with their future.

This protest was a part of Extinction Rebellion’s ‘waves’ of Rebellion for 2021; rebellions held each month, increasing in pressure each time as we build up to COP26 in Glasgow in November. [8]