activism climate change democracy film

Why does Extinction Rebellion want a citizen’s assembly?

The Extinction Rebellion movement has three demands. 1) Tell the truth about the climate emergency we now find ourselves in. 2) Act accordingly and aim for net zero emissions by 2025. And 3) Do so democratically by appointing a citizen’s assembly to lead on climate action.

Of those three, the third is the most difficult to explain. Many people aren’t familiar with the idea of a citizen’s assembly. They’re not exactly common, and easily misunderstood. I’ve heard people describe them as an undemocratic circumvention of government, which is almost the opposite of what we’re talking about.

I may write a longer piece about citizen’s assemblies at some point, but here is how XR sees them and the role they could play:


  1. Sustainability needs new approaches to adult learning: a role for citizens’ assemblies

    Dr Stephen Martin, Fellow of the World Wide Fund for Nature, and Policy and Advisor to the UK National Commission for UNESCO, looks at why our changing environment poses new challenges for how we find solutions to problems and how citizens’ assemblies may help us learn the answers.

    Adult learning for citizenship needs to respond to rapid global change which is economic, political, social, cultural and ecological. The destruction of the environment, and the various initiatives and actions, by individuals, communities, organisations and movements like the Climate Change school ‘strikers’ and Extinction Rebellion, set a bold and urgent context to repurposing adult citizenship education and lifelong learning.
    Political parties of all colours are using the citizenship debate to define not simply our rights as citizens but, more significantly, our responsibilities as active agents of change. This is set against a background of declining participation in the democratic process in both Europe and the USA. Yet our political systems seem incapable of responding at scale and urgency to this democratic deficit and the planetary existential crisis.

    How should adult education respond?
    The UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals and associated targets represent an unprecedented opportunity to learn how to tackle the root causes of climate change, biodiversity loss, extreme poverty and put the world on a more sustainable path. And their implementation is central to the reform of our concept of citizenship and adult learning. But how should we learn about them and put them into practice as adults?

    We all expect our citizen’s rights to include such things as access to clean water and air, along with high-quality education and health provision. However, I suspect for many who sign up for adult education in art appreciation or horticulture (or, in my case, who are struggling with Italian classes and ballroom dancing) it means very little. Indeed, there is much evidence that any mention of citizenship issues when we are enjoying our leisure activities tends to be unwelcome.
    Nonetheless, no matter how we might feel about these existential issues, humanity is increasingly and often unknowingly, faced with a widening array of complex issues in the 21st century; issues such as racial and religious intolerance, disinformation and fake news, aerial pollution, terrorism and widening inequality and poverty. And when we vote on such issues as responsible citizens in national elections, we have relatively limited understanding about how such issues are contributing to an unsustainable world, and how they can be resolved.

    Sustainability needs new approaches
    Although the concept of sustainability relates to the whole biosphere, at its core it is concerned with sustainable human lifestyles. To achieve such lifestyles, we all need to make decisions about a whole complex of interacting requirements, for food, housing, livelihood, health, transport etc., where decisions about one aspect can have unexpected, and perhaps undesired, effects on others and on our wider biophysical environment. Choosing to work from home can save transport fuel, but could use an even greater amount of extra fuel for home heating. To be effective, we need to learn to consider our whole lifestyle system, not just separate activities.
    The journey towards sustainability is a ‘wicked’ problem
    (link is external)
    involving complexity, uncertainty, multiple stakeholders and perspectives, competing values, lack of end points and ambiguous terminology. In a word, dealing with sustainability means dealing with a mess and most people avoid messes because they feel ill equipped to cope.
    The health, agricultural, financial and ecological problems we now face are qualitatively different from the problems for which existing scientific, economic, medical and political tools and educational programmes were designed.
    Without the right tools, learners faced with these wicked problems may fall back on the same old inappropriate toolbox with at best, disappointing outcomes. These approaches are as much about ‘problem finding’ and ‘problem exploring’ as they are about problem solving.

    Why citizens’ assemblies could be important forums for adult learning
    My contention along with many others is that learners cannot deal with the wicked problems of sustainability without learning to think and act systemically. This is also supported by the growing use of Citizen’s Assemblies
    (link is external)
    (a form of deliberative democracy) as a means of supporting decision making in complex areas of social and environmental concern.
    A citizens’ assembly:
    is formed from the citizens of a modern state to deliberate on an issue or issues of national importance;
    has members who are randomly selected;
    uses a cross-section of the public to study and learn about the options available to the state on certain complex questions;
    proposes answers to these questions through rational and reasoned discussion and the use of various methods of inquiry such as directly questioning experts.
    These assemblies aim to reinstall trust in the political process by taking direct ownership of decision-making and could, if used more frequently and sensitively, support active citizens as agencies for change. They could also enhance wider learning and understanding within civil society based on empirical evidence rather than being based on political dogma and ideology.

    Dr Stephen Martin is President of Change Agents UK, Honorary Professor at the University of Worcester and Visiting Professor in Learning for Sustainability, University of the West of England.

  2. Hi,

    I watched the video and although I would agree with the basic message I see a couple of issues.

    A lot of people will not take a movement like Extinction Rebellion seriously, why? because they can’t identify with them. Many of the people in the video just look like ‘Tree Huggers’, dressed up weird, wearing masks, crying to order, etc.

    They carry placards telling us that we are all doomed and the world is coming to an end. Now while I agree that there are problems I find it difficult to ‘Quantify’ the problem, will the Earth be a desolate waste in 50 years? or is that a bit of an exaggeration. I have read a lot of stuff on this, but it just seems to me that no one seems able to agree on what is happening if it is happening and what timetable it is happening on.

    The idea of a citizens assembly sounds good, but really, there are so many problems with setting a thing like that up. One of the people from the video said it would be similar to a jury trial, but most people on a jury trial selected at random can’t understand complicated matters such as forensic accounting or basic forensics, so how can they give an accurate verdict. For the Citizens Assembly will people have to have a certain level of knowledge or education, if not how can they understand the topics to be discussed. Will people who do not have the same views as the organisers be allowed to join ie people who don’t think there is an environmental issue (yes, they do exist)

    A lot of people see this sort of organisation as just a bunch of weirdos complaining about things like the Ozone layer or the Millenium bug, and don’t expect anything to come from it. This wouldn’t necessarily be my point of view (although I did see a few people in the video that looked like weirdos)

    I’m not sure what the best approach is, but alienating people probably isn’t it, and creating a citizens assembly made up of eco-activists probably isn’t going to do it either.

    Anyway, Good Luck.


    1. I agree that the video features plenty of oddballs and that doesn’t help the cause. XR have a PR problem there. However, the whole point is that citizen’s assemblies are drawn like juries from across the population. There is absolutly no intention to make a panel of eco-activists, and neither would it be run by eco-activists. For it to have any credibility, it would have to be run by a trusted third party (ie not the government either!). The video does mention this.

      1. Hi Jeremy,

        Yes, I understand how it would work, and in principle I would agree with you that it is a good idea. My issue is that, unlike juries, the members would be volunteers or they would be paid to be there. So would it be a balanced group, the average person wouldn’t be that interested I feel. So it would be people who feel strongly about it that would volunteer, or they would be people who are a stakeholder of some sort.

        This is the whole problem with the eco movement, it is really a mainstream problem, but it has been taken over by ‘activists’. In the early days that is a good thing, we need people to shout about it, but as it progresses we need it to transfer to the ‘normal’ people. The problem is that the ‘normal’ people feel a bit intimidated by the ‘Oddballs’.

        I don’t mean to be insulting with the terms I use, I just find it hard to express what I mean in any other terms 🙂

        Love the blog


        1. Like a jury, it would have to be a balanced group before it could sit. That would be part of the remit of the organisers. It would have no credibility otherwise.

          Citizens assemblies have been used successfully before, so there are models to work from.

  3. Here’s a summary of my view of XR’s three demands (for detail see my review of ‘This is Not a Drill’ above):

    1. Government must tell the truth.

    OK – and the most critical truth (by far) is that developing countries (the source of 65% of global emissions) are exempt from any obligation – legal, moral or political – from any obligation to reduce those emissions. And they’re acting accordingly with emissions increasing year-on-year: as Roget Hallam has noted, by 2.7% in 2018 alone.

    2. Government must act now – to cut emissions to net zero by 2025.

    US and EU negotiators have tried to persuade major emerging countries, such as India, China and South Korea, and big OPEC countries, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, to accept a share of responsibility for emission reduction. The result? Adamant refusal. It’s inconceivable that the UK government could succeed in persuading them to become carbon neutral within the next 6 years.

    3. Government must be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly.

    There’s nothing a Citizens’ Assembly could do that might change the above.

      1. Yes, but this time I want to focus on XR’s Citizens’ Assembly proposal. Look at the video – it’s almost wholly about all the ghastly things that are happening in the world and how, if something isn’t done about it, humanity faces a frighting future. Plainly increased emissions are a global problem and, assuming, as XR clearly does, that ‘net zero’ is the solution, that has to happen globally. But international politics over the last 25 years are unequivocal: non-Western countries are not seriously concerned about increasing emissions. Presumably the ‘trusted third party’ will make this clear – otherwise all those good people who are so worried would be being misled about the truth. And that would be disgraceful.

        Having taken that reality on board, I don’t see how a Citizens Assembly could do any more than urge the UK Government to try harder to persuade China, India, Iran, Saudi Arabia – and Russia and Japan – to reverse their policies. Perhaps a CA might have some ideas about what the West’s climate negotiators might do differently. But it’s hard to see what that might be. The reality I suggest is that a Citizens’ Assembly, however well advised and well intentioned, could do nothing practical about international politics and non-Western national priorities.

        1. It’s a citizen’s assembly on Britain’s role in climate change. That’s obvious and it doesn’t pretend to be anthing other than that. As for why Britain should still take action, and how that can have an influence globally, you and I have agreed to disagree and I have nothing further to add.

          1. But Jeremy, you not I raised the very specific issue of the Citizens’ Assembly. And I’m most interested in how it might work: how it’s to be recruited, how long it sits for, whether participants would be paid, how the ‘trusted third party’ would be recruited (trusted by whom?), what her/his role would be, what would be its agenda and procedure, what ‘independent’ information would be provided to it, by whom… and much more.

            You say you ‘may write a longer piece about citizens’ assemblies’. I hope you do and that it addresses all these issues. I look forward to it.

            But, in the meantime, all I understand now is that it would be concerned only with ‘Britain’s role in climate change’. But that wouldn’t begin to address the serious worries expressed for example throughout the above video. It sets those worries – wholly a global matter – against ‘evidence based democratic solutions’. But, if those ‘solutions’ are concerned only, as you seem to be saying, with what Britain might do (e.g. the various proposals put forward in the video – cutting emissions to net zero, radical political change, stopping economic growth, transforming the economy (‘in the next few months’), changing the system’s structure, bringing about ‘profound change in the metaphysics of politics’, etc.) wouldn’t begin to address the serious concerns expressed throughout the video: the loss of ‘all crops’, the prospect of ‘all life on earth’ disappearing, mass starvation with food systems ‘fucked’, the end of civilisation, the need to ‘save humanity and the planet’, etc. Given all this, it’s not surprising that people are ‘crying out for action’. But these are global matters. If CA participants are to be given the impression that what might be done in Britain could solve them – even, as you believe, by influencing global action – they would in my view be cruelly misinformed.

            One commentator said that an inspiration was how such an assembly contributed to the Irish abortion debate. But that was exclusively an Irish issue. Climate change is a global issue. And, treating it as a local issue – as you seem to be suggesting – cannot be the answer to all those worries.

          2. Jeremy:

            I’ve been thinking about your comment that a citizen’s assembly would be concerned only with Britain’s role – and therefore about it might view the ‘net zero by 2025’ demand. And assuming the assembly would consider the practicalities of the demand, I’ve considered whether or not it would be physically possible. Further, because the 2025 idea is so obviously hopeless (I think you agree), I’ve assumed it would be extended to 2035.

            For simplicity, I’ve considered only how we might replace current carbon emitting power plants, leaving aside other huge challenges such as the need, within 15 years, to replace most internal-combustion powered vehicles now in private, public, commercial, industrial, construction and agricultural use – many not yet designed. Also I’ve assumed that the solution is to deploy more wind turbines, ignoring solar power as it is far less effective in the UK. I’ve also assumed that the current phasing out of nuclear plants will continue and that useful replacements are unlikely before 2035 – if ever. (I think XR is opposed to nuclear power anyway.)

            Currently fossil fuel, biomass and nuclear power plants supply about 75% of our electricity and wind/solar about 25%. Electricity supply represents about 30% of our primary energy requirement. The balance of 70% is largely accounted for by petroleum and diesel fuel (largely used in private, commercial, industrial, construction and agricultural vehicles and by aviation and shipping and in industrial processes such as concrete, steel and plastic production), and natural gas largely used for industrial processes and for industrial/commercial and domestic heating and cooking.

            Wind turbines would have to replace all – or nearly all – of the above if we are to continue as a functioning society. Currently we have about 10,000 turbines supplying about 18% of our electric power – i.e. 5% of primary energy. Therefore by 2035 we would need another 190,000 turbines. That would mean a vast and probably unprecedented (except perhaps in WWII) manufacturing and commissioning programme utilising about 170 million tons of steel, 470 million tons of concrete, 8 million tons of (largely non-recyclable) plastic and significant amounts of rare earth materials. All that is for just the turbines – but, as wind is an unreliable energy source, we would also have to provide large numbers of extraordinarily huge batteries for back-up (unless a sensibly satisfactory solution is devised in time) as well as transmission, switching, frequency stability equipment, etc. Note also: (1) all this would mean a huge spike in our CO2 emissions and (2) the new turbines would cover about 10% of the UK landmass – potentially a serious problem as we would have to grow most of our own food.

            I haven’t mentioned many issues. Two in particular: cost and the necessary workforce. The first would be gargantuan. As for the second, I calculate we would require a new workforce of around two million energetic and motivated people with an intellectual level akin to those mobilised in 1940; from where would they be recruited?

            Would all this be possible by 2035? I think the answer is clearly such that a properly informed citizen’s assembly would almost certainly reject the net zero by 2035 (let alone 2025) proposal. What do you think?

              1. My aim was to consider, not whether ‘net zero by 2025’ was technically feasible, but whether it was practical. The 2020 target was so obviously hopeless (which underlines the unreality of XR’s second ‘demand’) that I extended the date to 2035. To keep it simple (otherwise my comment would have been hopelessly long), I made some broad assumptions. You say you’re ‘not sure about many’. Fair enough – perhaps you’re right about ‘massive efficiency savings’. I’ll touch on that below. As for solar, I tried introducing that into the mix but found its disadvantages (relative inefficiency in the UK, land use and problems after dark and in the winter) made a focus on wind more useful.

                As I said, you may be right about efficiency savings – although I’m inclined to suspect they’d be more difficult that you think. But let’s suppose it would be possible to reduce the number of wind turbines by 40% from my 190,000 to 114,000. That would still be a massive industrial and commissioning undertaking: over 20 installations a day for 15 years.

                You say others have done ‘some robust work on this’. But have they? To be sure, there’s been a lot of work on the technology that might be deployed. But, so far as I’m aware, no serious work on the practicalities of introducing that technology over a very short timescale. Take the CAT report on ‘Zero Carbon Britain’. It specifically says that it makes no assumptions ‘as to how we get there’. What they present – in serious and interesting detail – is a scenario demonstrating that, using current technology, its aims could be technically achieved. An immediate problem is that report was published in 2013, so there are now seven less years to play with.

                Here’s a proposal. I suggest you read the ‘Power Down’, ‘Power Up’ and ‘Non-energy emissions’ sections of the report, asking yourself re each page: is it likely that Britain could actually do all these things (far more than ‘just’ building and installing 114,000 wind turbines) between say mid 2020 and 2030? I think you’ll have to agree with me that it’s most unlikely.

                1. You’re putting a lot of time into this, but ‘can it be done?’ isn’t a useful question. We have to do what we think is right.

                  And of course, what you think is a right response to climate change is fundamentally different to what I think is right.

                2. Not such a lot of time: I’ve been pursuing this practicality issue elsewhere and was already aware of a lot of the relevant material. It’s all very well asserting that ‘we have to do what we think is right’, but there’s little point in demanding an outcome (e.g. ‘net zero by 2025’ or 2030) that’s impossible to achieve. Surely you can see that?

                  My view on the right response to climate change – as you know I’m agnostic on that issue – is wholly unconnected with my view on the practicality of what people are proposing (or demanding).

                3. If your house is on fire, you don’t stop to ask if the fire can be put out or not. You call the fire brigade.

                  You’re not convinced there’s a real problem here, so all you’re doing is slowing down the people who are trying to help. I’m sure there are other people who will indulge your scepticism. Not me, and not here.

                4. And you’d call the fire brigade because you’d be confident that they had the skills and experience to know precisely what they had to do – and that they wouldn’t try to do anything that was clearly impossible.

                  Pointing out what is and what isn’t practicable, far from slowing things down, is basis for getting things done. The alternative is to engage in wishful thinking. Surely you can see that isn’t the way to deal with a serious challenge?

    1. A useful link. Thanks. Two points:

      1. It gives a number of examples of citizens’ assemblies. All are concerned with local issues. What XR are demanding for the UK concerns a global issue. For the reasons I’ve stated above, there’s no practical recommendation (or demand) that a UK Citizens’ Assembly could make that could have any useful impact on the global situation.

      2. Its first reason for demanding a Citizens’ Assembly is this: ‘Successive UK governments have failed to respond to the growing crisis of climate change since the issue first became a matter of public concern over 30 years ago.’ Yet over that period the UK has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 40%. That’s more than any other major economy. In contrast, over that period most countries have increased their emissions: globally emissions have increased by over 60%.

      1. Fracking, Heathrow’s third runway, the subsidising of fossil fuels – plenty more to do. Targets are not on track.

        Climate change is a global issue that is addressed at every level – individuals, households, neighbourhoods, towns, regions, nations, and internationally. Citizen’s assemblies are a national strategy. Other strategies will be required. It’s not difficult.

        1. ‘Fracking, Heathrow’s third runway, the subsidising of fossil fuels…’

          But tackling these things cannot not have any useful impact on the global situation, where for example China has just started to operate a 1,837 km railway that will carry 200 million tonnes of coal annually and is in the process of building over 200 new airports by 2035. These – and many more – are the real problems. And, to suggest otherwise, is to deceive the seriously worried people in that video: the prospect of ‘all life on earth’ disappearing, mass starvation with food systems ‘fucked’, the end of civilisation…

          And, in any case, it’s just not true to say that ‘successive UK governments have failed to respond…’ XR does itself no favours by making such claims.

          1. I wrote last week, in some detail, how action in Britain can and does make a difference.

            I also know from dozens of conversations now, that you and I have very few points of agreement on which to build a genuine debate – including whether or not climate change even matters. So you’ll have to forgive me for short answers and not wasting more time on this.

          2. I’m happy to forgive you your short answers Jeremy. But surely you agree with me for example when I say that XR does itself no favours by saying that ‘successive UK governments have failed to respond…’. Don’t you?

            1. Tony Blair was Prime Minister when Britain signed the Climate Change Act. The next significant policy was Theresa May’s net zero by 2050 announcement earlier this year. I’ll let you count the prime ministers and governments in between.

              1. Over the last 30 years, global emissions have increased by over 60%. Yet the UK has reduced its emissions by nearly 40% – probably the best record of any industrialised economy in the world. Hardly a ‘failure to respond’. XR does itself no favours by asserting otherwise.

                1. Surely you’re not suggesting that there’s anything wrong with ‘the removal of coal from energy generation’? A simple question: do you agree with XR that ‘successive UK governments have failed to respond’?

                2. You’re determined to get an argument out of this aren’t you?

                  The end of coal is fantastic, but it’s because of market forces rather than government policy and so they can’t take credit for the vast majority of emissions reductions. Successive governments have moved backwards on climate change, from scrapping the zero carbon homes standard, to mishandling renewable energy subsidies to gutting community energy. I’ve covered this elsewhere, and I completely agree with XR on this one.

                3. I’ll take that as a ‘Yes, I agree with XR that successive UK governments have failed to respond’. Extraordinary.

                4. To use your words, yes, I agree with XR that successive UK governments have failed to respond. I’ve just told you exactly why – it’s been ten years between any serious new policies on the climate.

                  I find it extraordinary that you find that controversial, but then we do live in different worlds, you and I.

                5. The UK continues to phase out coal-fired power stations. Is that a ‘failure to respond’? I don’t think so. Strange that, despite that ‘failure’, Britain has cut its emissions by nearly 40% over 30 years in a world that’s increased its by over 69%. I wonder how that happened. Magic I suppose.

                6. Are you even reading my comments? Doesn’t seem to make a blind bit of notice what I say. I won’t repeat myself. Read again to see why I don’t credit the government with a reduction in coal use.

                7. Oh yes, I read your comments. Your idea that GHG reductions only ‘count’ if the government has effected them for the correct reason is weird. Jeremy: Britain has reduced its emissions by 40% against a background of a 60% global increase. I’m unaware of any country with a better record. I would have thought that, whatever the reason, that was something to celebrate. But no – you have to complain.

                8. I’m delighted that coal is in decline and have said so many times on the blog. But the government’s plan to phase out coal power came after the collapse of coal, not before. It’s not evidence of government action – and your question was specifically about ‘successive goverments’.

                  My opinion isn’t based on XR, by the way. I take my cues on the government’s progress from the Climate Change Committee. Download and read their progress reports, and then come and tell me they’re doing a great job:

                9. Britain’s 40% reduction in emissions (against a background of a 60% global increase) took place over a period of 30 years – i.e. under successive governments . As I’ve said, I’m unaware of any country with a better record. Yet XR asserts that ‘Successive UK governments have failed to respond to the growing crisis of climate change since the issue first became a matter of public concern over 30 years ago.’ That’s patently untrue. Yet you agree with it on the basis it seems that it’s motivation that really matters, not results.

                  My point is simple: XR do themselves no favours by making a false assertion. Whether or not the CCC thinks the government is doing ‘ a great job’ is a wholly separate matter.

                10. Britain has reduced its emissions. True. Successive governments have failed to act. True.

                  Emissions reductions are despite government actions, not because of them.

                  Don’t bother replying until you’ve downloaded and read the Climate Change Committee’s report on this that I just linked to. Extinction Rebellion – and me – aren’t saying anything different from what the government’s own official advisors are saying.

                11. Jeremy I’ve read the CCC report. And it doesn’t claim (as you and XR do) that UK governments have done nothing. If you think I’m wrong, show me precisely where it says it. Thanks.

                12. Not nothing, but wholly inadequate. Don’t have to get any futher than the executive summary to read that.

                  If you have read it and didn’t get the message, I really don’t know what to say to you. It’s black and white.

                13. My question was this: do you agree with XR that ‘Successive UK governments have failed to respond to the growing crisis of climate change since the issue first became a matter of public concern over 30 years ago’? You claimed that the recent CCC report somehow confirmed the truth of the XR assertion. But, as I said before – having read the CCC report – it doesn’t. So I’ve downloaded it again and – as you suggest – looked just at the Executive Summary. Yes, it says it’s dissatisfied with slow progress since the ‘NetZero’ report. And there are other criticisms. But that isn’t remotely the same thing as saying that ‘Successive UK governments have failed to respond …’etc. For example, it speaks highly of how ‘well-designed and well- resourced policies have provided clear market signals that have driven rapid progress’ – mentioning specifically the fall in coal-fired generation which you dismissed as not being evidence of government action. Who do you think did the designing and resourcing? How about the ‘Regulations and obligations [that] worked well in the past’ – where do you think they originated?

                  As I’ve said, the ‘Successive UK governments have failed to respond …’ assertion does XR (and you) no favours.

                14. A list that includes EU and Scottish government policies, and policies that were then reversed, hmm. “Not exactly a ringing endorsement”, to quote an earlier quibble of yours.

                  If you accept that climate change is real and urgent – which I do – then there has been a massive dearth of real action from the government. The CCC says this very explicitly, pointing out that only 6 out of 21 indicators are on track, with Britain unlikely to meet its 3rd and 4th carbon budgets. There have been no substantive new policies (not no progess) between 2009 and 2019, despite the growing evidence that more urgent action is required.

                  How you could read that report and conclude otherwise, I really have no idea.

                  Look, I know you disapprove of XR. Since by your own admission you’re still not convinced about climate change, that’s hardly a surprise. But of the many things to get upset about, going in to bat for the government’s record so far seems like a very odd choice. It’s certainly not worth my time.

                  So I’m done here. By all means argue away by yourself if you like. I won’t be reading any more comments from you on this thread.

                15. That there may have been a ‘dearth of real action from the government’ but, even if true, it’s not the same thing as ‘Successive UK governments have failed to respond to the growing crisis of climate change since the issue first became a matter of public concern over 30 years ago’. It’s that bald statement by XR (and it seems by you) to which I object – especially as Britain has probably done more than any other country in the world. Had their claim been that ‘The CCC says the Government isn’t doing enough about this urgent problem’, it would have been true and I wouldn’t have objected.

                  And in a way, I’m trying to help: making unjustified assertions does you no good in the eyes of the outside world. I really don’t understand how you cannot see this.

                  I disapprove of XR because they’re making impossible demands (e.g. net zero by 2025) – and giving impressionable people (especially young people) the idea that what they’re doing will solve a global problem.

                16. Robin ,
                  I share Jeremy’s views . We need much more progress on reducing emissions and on adaptation too ! Scale and urgency must be the overriding mantra from our political leadership ;

                  Please read the Secretary General of the OECD’s Climate Change Lecture :

                17. Well Steve, ‘we’ may need all this – but XR is not the way to get it. And nor, it seems, is the OECD.

                  I take it you’re referring to Angel Gurria’s lecture on 1 July 2019 – correct? His solution is a set of actions on 3 fronts: (1) put people at the centre of policy; (2) pursue environmental justice; and (3) ensure long-term prospects. Hmm … these are nice words but, if emissions are to be cut, there need to be some concrete plan to overcome the real barrier. And that Steve is that the big ’emerging’ economies such as China, India, South Korea, Indonesia and South Africa, the big OPEC countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia and two major ‘developed’ countries, Russia and Japan, are not really interested in prioritising emission reduction. They simply don’t share the West’s (or OECD’s) concern about climate change. The trouble with Gurria’s approach is that he assumes they do – just look at his examples: they’re all from the West. As for justice, access to energy derived from fossil fuels has lifted over one billion people in the Asia-Pacific area out of abject policy. Unsurprisingly, they want to continue that policy as well as giving their burgeoning middle classes the many benefits we in the West have enjoyed for so long. The challenge for people like Gurria is to find a way of persuading these countries to reverse their policies. Bear in mind ‘developing’ countries (specifically exempt fro having to prioritise emission reduction under the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and 2015 the Paris Agreement) are – with Russia and Japan – the source of 75% of global emissions. If that’s not fixed, there’s little point in focusing on the long term.

                  If that’s the best it can do, I don’t see the OECD being much help – although arguably rather more than might emerge from XR’s fantasy world.

      2. Robin ,
        It’s not just about emissions but also about adaptation to the climate emergency . The recent report on Climate Adaptation is critical of many parts of the world in not prioritising adaptation . In Derbyshire the dam at Whaley Bridge partially collapsed and hence enforced an emergency evacuation of the town and villages down steam ! A prime example of how brutal climate change impacts can be ! Longer term who would buy a property in this area where the risk is so high ?

        1. Steve:

          I’m all in favour of adaptation to potentially severe weather. But I cannot find any reference to adaptation in the XR website. Can you? And I don’t see how for example ‘bringing about “profound change in the metaphysics of politics”’ is going to be much help.

          As for Whaley Bridge, I think you’ll find that two inches of rain a day is not historically uncommon, particularly in the Pennine area. In any case, it seems the emergency probably occurred because the 100 year-old dam was poorly maintained:

          As for your question see this:

          1. I think you are sadly out of touch with reality on climate change and it’s impact.Strongly suggest you read This Uninhabitable World.
            It might cheer you up and give some better data to consider ?
            Over and out .

            1. You mean you think I’m wrong about XR making no reference to adaptation, about the Whaley Bridge problem probably being due to poor maintenance and about Obama buying a beachfront property? Or something else?

              As for David Wallace-Wells’s book – This Uninhabitable Earth (not World) – I find his ‘panic now … it’s OK to freak out’ philosophy decidedly unimpressive. Here’s the view of one scientist (Professor Richard Betts): ‘While it is clear that ongoing warming of the global climate would eventually have very severe consequences, the concept of the Earth becoming uninhabitable within anywhere near the timescales suggested in the article is pure hyperbole’.

              Link: (Even Michael Mann says it exaggerates.)

              1. All is not as you assume in the views of the scientists who were selected ! What about those who were not ? I assume what they know and in what capacity to you know ?
                This from the selected few ….

                David Archer, Professor, University of Chicago:
                I do not disagree with the tone of the article in the way that most folks here seem to, and I think it does a service to highlight recent results and ideas throughout the scientific community. However there are inaccurate statements, like about satellite warming since 1998, unsupported conclusions or implications (about past mass extinctions, air chemistry, maybe arctic methane). But I feel that the overall thrust of the article is not wrong, wildly misleading, or out of bounds of the discussion we should be having about climate change.

                1. Hmm… hardly a ringing endorsement. “Not … wildly misleading or out of bounds of the discussion we should be having about climate change’ isn’t a description of a book that, as you seem to think, would put me in ‘touch with reality on climate change and its impact’.

  4. Maybe. But Steve recommended it to me as a book that would put me in ‘touch with reality on climate change and its impact’. Does a worst case scenario represent reality?

  5. Hi Robin,

    You claim that the UK has reduced emissions against a global increase of 60%. I don’t think this is entirely accurate! Yes the emissions may have been reduced here, but how much have emissions fallen if we were to include everything that we import. Steel production for example, used to be here but now it is in China or some other place, but we are still responsible for the emissions.

    As for the government, we’ll all I can say is that the environment is a long term challenge and anything past the next election isn’t that important to them.


    1. Yes Jim, there’s some truth in that – but, even taking that into account, UK emissions have declined significantly largely as a result of our switching from coal to gas. My point was – and is – that it’s misleading to suggest, as XR does, that ‘successive UK governments have failed to respond’.

        1. Not really – it’s a long article full of conjecture and conspiracy. But since you ask, I’ll tell you where I stopped reading and why: right around the time you wrote “as anyone who has ever tried to arrange a protest will know, the mobilisation of mass numbers doesn’t happen spontaneously. It requires substantial financial backing, full-time employees and infrastructure”. That’s very familiar nonsense.

          XR takes donations, and no doubt some rich people have given them money, but it’s a grassroots organisation. I know this because I am one of its grassroots organisers, and I haven’t had a penny from any central office.

          It’s a decentralised movement, which is why the founders aren’t all over the website. Besides Roger Hallam who I met once, I wouldn’t recognise any of the founders if I saw them in the street. This isn’t about allegiance to a particular figure or following a charismatic leader. It’s about creating an easily replicable model that anyone in the world can pick up. That’s why it’s gone worldwide, because you don’t need permission to make some signs and get started.

          1. Thanks for your reply, Jeremy. If you only got a fraction of the way through, how do you know it’s full of conjecture and conspiracy?

            Many of ER’s key personnel are being paid expenses. I’ve seen an internal document which has been leaked. So has some of the press:

            The sources of funding has also been purportedly leaked. Though I can’t corroborate that, if it is a true document, it does reveal the usual players.

            There are links to the British deep state. That may be uncomfortable for you but it’s true. Because the reality is that the green movement has been completely infiltrated and hijacked by huge combinations of transnational capital. The existence of controlled opposition infrastructure and astroturfing is an unfortunate reality. My article exposes that.

            IMO often policies which present themselves as moral are in fact policies about commercial interests and the pursuit of power. This is what idealist politics is generally about. It’s simply to kill the sheep of equality, probity, justice, or in this case the environment, and put its coat over its wolf’s hide.

            Thanks for getting back to me, Jeremy. I do appreciate that. Like you I care dearly about the environment which is why I wanted to expose the fact that much of the green movement is being used as a front for money and power

  6. XR pays expenses occasionally, and I believe it has a handful of full time staff. So what? I’ll let you do your own maths on how far the £200,000 the Daily Mail says has been dispersed so far would go, even at £300 a week, across the 30,000 people who marched through London last week.

    Your article argues simultaneously that XR is communism is disguise, and is infiltrated by big corporations. That’s bizarre, especially since most commentators have XR down as anarchists, not communists. I think you’ve failed to do some very basic fact checking.

    1. Hi Jeremy. Thanks for your reply. Sorry for the late post but I missed it.

      Many if not most of the activists are completely unconnected to the agendas behind this movement. They are well meaning people who want a better world. My article alluded to state controlled infrastructure which either starts or infiltrates protest movements so that anarchic elements aspects are successfully negated. So-called controlled opposition which is as old as the hills.

      Many of the activists are anarchists, I have no doubt about that, but the major players this movement benefits are not. Nor is Agenda 21, which this movement is tacitly in support of. Hence why the liberal establishment, in its various spheres, have given ER exposure and plenty of oxygen to disseminate their message.

      I don’t understand why you would think corporations supporting a communism is a contradiction. You seem to be suffering from a misapprehension. To-date, communism has NEVER been a grassroots movement. It’s always bankrolled and underpinned by the central banks and huge combinations of capital that seeks land and power. I refer you to the Institute of Pacific Relations which played an active role in instigating communism in China and the Western banks that financed Bolshevism.

      The UN, which is of course a bureaucratic proxy for the powers behind it have even admitted trying to change the economic system and it has nothing to do with the climate:

      Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, has said:

      “This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution”

      I really don’t see why it’s so hard to understand that climate climate is a mask for the agendas underneath when the diplomats themselves are saying exactly that.

      As for my article being poorly fact checked, I beg to differ. On the contrary, I fervently wish people did basic fact checks before they supported pernicious, elite controlled movements which are simply astroturfing.

      Thanks for getting back to me.

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