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September 28, 2022

I glued myself around the Speakers’ Chair in Parliament. Here’s why I did it.

topic: Climate action
by: Alanna Byrne
org: Extinction Rebellion

Earlier this month, I was one of the four women glued around the Speaker’s Chair in Westminster calling for a Citizens’ Assembly on the climate and ecological emergency. 

I didn’t take this action lightly. I chose to take part because I can’t simply stand by and watch politics in this country fail all of us time and time again, even as we see record heatwaves, fires, flooding and droughts happening right now all over the world. 

And not only this: as the planet burns, food and energy bills are spiraling and ordinary working people are facing a cost of living crisis while the likes of Shell and BP rake in record profits. 

This has to change. We cannot afford to carry on like this. 

A broken system 

I don’t need to tell you what a mess the political system in the UK is; it’s on the front pages of our newspapers every day, and thanks to soaring food and energy prices, we are now experiencing firsthand what a 'broken' political system really means.

Politics in the UK is out of date, out of touch and corrupt to the core, riddled with processes designed for exploitation. 

In my lifetime we have had 5 unelected Prime Ministers, with our latest, Liz Truss, proud of her close ties to the fossil fuel industry. Within days of becoming PM, Truss gave the green light to fracking in the UK and said she will encourage the oil and gas industry to extract more fossil fuels from the North Sea.

This is despite Polling by Ipsos in August this year finding that 80 percent of the general public in the UK are concerned about the climate crisis. Furthermore, over 52 percent think the government’s net zero 2050 plan is too late. 

Our political system urgently needs upgrading so that ordinary people’s needs are represented - rather than prioritising the interests of the fossil fuel lobby.

Mobilising the people 

That’s why Extinction Rebellion demands a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

A citizens’ assembly could cut through the corruption deep in the heart of Westminster and bring together a truly representative group of people from different walks of life, selected like a jury, and supported by independent experts on climate change, to make the tough decisions politicians have been putting off for thirty years.

The action in Parliament this month marked the beginning of Extinction Rebellion’s efforts to build a movement of people from all walks of life that will be too big for the government and fossil fuel industry to ignore.

A movement that will demand, and then secure, a citizen-led transition away from dependence on big oil and gas, and stand up to self-serving politicians.

On 20 September, a fleet of Extinction Rebellion buses set off around the country, aiming to connect communities, grow our local groups, and most importantly, hear from local people about their biggest concerns. At each stop, the teams held talks and trainings to teach people about deliberative democracy and Citizens’ Assemblies, empowering people with the tools to decide together how to solve the great challenges facing us.

We will also be hosting several of our own assemblies - called People’s Assemblies - to gather opinions on how to go about tackling the mess we’re in.

We believe this tour is crucial in order to understand where the country is on its climate journey. We wish to host conversations where we can collectively join the dots on the energy crisis, spiraling inequality and inaction on climate and environment.

Now is the moment to act

The climate crisis and the cost of living crisis are two sides of the same coin, with the majority of us forced to suffer the consequences for the irresponsible, self-serving behaviour of a few.

Meanwhile, a tiny minority make huge profits, supported by politicians too corrupt or too concerned with the next election cycle to rise to the urgency of the moment.

If you believe that our political system is no longer fit for purpose and want to see urgent action on climate justice, now is the moment to take a stand. 

Together, we are far more powerful than we think.

Alanna Bryne is a media coordinator and activist at Extinction Rebellion. 

Image by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona.

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