Suzanne Williams of Extinction Rebellion argues why protesters are right to keep blocking the traffic

On Beaumont Street, Oxford, at 11am on Saturday, local resident Anne Taylor stopped traffic by peacefully sitting in the road wearing a sign that read ‘I’m terrified for my grandchildren’s future because of the climate crisis.’

As she sat in the way of the oncoming traffic, Anne risked 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 she was not alone. Around the country, over 200 people just like her, terrified about the trajectory we are on in this climate and ecological emergency, also took action in their hometowns in the same way.

People blocked roads from Aberdeen to Birmingham to Yarmouth and beyond, to say they will no longer stand by while the UK Government tells the public about its tepid plans to tackle the climate crisis.

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.

Anne, 72, a retired teacher from Oxford, said: “Two years ago the Government declared a climate and ecological emergency. Since then they have done nothing. There is no plan. Nothing. Meantime the crisis deepens. The global south is experiencing terrible floods – farms in Bangladesh are under water and climate migrants are filling the slums in Dhaka.

“It’s happening now. Parts of the city of Cardiff will be under water by 2030. And it will only get worse, much, much worse. The stability of the entire world will be threatened.

Climate protestor sat in Broad Street, Oxford, on Saturday. Picture: Suzanne Williams

Climate protestor sat in Broad Street, Oxford, on Saturday. Picture: Suzanne Williams

What part of the word emergency do our leaders not understand? They have to act now, or it will be too late. But they are not.

“I rebel for my grandchildren, my children, for all the young people whose futures are so very bleak. How could I not act? How could I not do whatever I could for my grandchildren and their future?”

Read more: Protest brings Oxford traffic to a halt

In February this year, chief executive of the Environment Agency Sir James Bevan said that the UK is hitting worst case environmental scenarios that if left unchecked would collapse ecosystems, slash crop yields, take out the infrastructure that our civilisation depends on, and destroy the basis of the modern economy and modern society.

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 and demand action.

The Police arrived on the scene after about 10 minutes and redirected the traffic. They remained there for the duration of the protest, and a young policeman said they were there to make sure she was safe – that was their job.

They were cooperative and helpful and no arrests were made. Support from the public was overwhelmingly positive, with many people of all ages coming over to Anne to express their support and gratitude for her action. Three students were moved to tears, saying they were ‘so touched that Anne was doing this for their generation and generations to come.’ A man with two young children said he was so grateful that this action was taken for his children’s future.

The action comes amid growing unrest around the Police, Crimes, Sentencing and Courts Bill which has seen movements, organisations, unions and individuals standing together to defy a government and police force drunk on power.

Rebellion of One was just one part of a huge day of action on International Workers’ Day across the UK, with Kill the Bill protests taking place in cities across the country, 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 Government is telling the public it has the climate and ecological crisis in hand. With the eyes of the world on the UK as 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 six months, £27bn has been invested in new roads and the Heathrow expansion ruling was overturned.

A report by Positive Money found that by June last year 56 per cent of Covid funding distributed by the Bank of England went to carbon intensive industries, including airlines, car manufacturers and oil and gas companies.

The Committee on Climate Change – the body tasked with monitoring government progress on reducing admissions – said in its progress report last June that the UK has failed on 17 out of 21 progress indicators, falling further behind in many areas and that just two of 31 key policy milestones have been met over the year since Parliament declared emergency.

In December, the National Audit Office found that the Government is predicted to fail to meet its existing climate targets and said that a radical reassessment of priorities was needed. The people taking action hope to make clear that they can no longer trust the Government with their future.

The protest was 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.