POLITICS
23/04/2019 17:49 BST

Environment Secretary Michael Gove To Meet Extinction Rebellion Activists As Climate Protests Intensify

But the government has refused to declare a national climate emergency.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove will hold talks with Extinction Rebellion in a bid to stem the climate change protests which brought UK cities to a standstill.

The cabinet minister revealed on Tuesday that his aides had “reached out” to the radical group and he plans to meet them personally this week. 

He told an event in Westminster: “It is also the case that several of the people involved in the recent Extinction Rebellion protests, we have reached out to them and I will be talking to them later this week.” 

It came as the government was under fresh pressure to redouble its efforts to cut carbon emissions. 

Scores of Extinction Rebellion demonstrators carrying flags and banners were marching from Marble Arch to Parliament Square while activists were handing in letters to their MPs to demand rapid action. 

Reuters
Michael Gove

The latest action follows weeks of the group targeting roads, rail and Heathrow Airport in a bid to bounce the issue of climate change to the top of the agenda.

Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg, who triggered a worldwide protest movement when she refused to go to school, also spoke to Gove and other MPs in parliament on Tuesday. 

She told a packed room in Portcullis House her future and those of her fellow children had been “sold”.

“We probably don’t even have a future any more,” she said. 

“That future has been sold so that a small number of people can make unimaginable amounts of money.

“It was stolen from us every time you said ‘the sky is the limit’.”

In his reply to Thunberg, Gove said the “political system still has not grasped the scale of the challenge” and added: “You asked a number of times in your remarks, can you hear me.

“We can all hear you and we have all heard you.” 

He went on to say climate change had reached a “moment of crisis”. 

“As I was listening to you [Greta] I felt both admiration but also a sense of responsibility and guilt, because I recognise that I am of your parents’ generation and I recognise that we haven’t done nearly enough to deal with the problem of climate change and the broader environment and ecological crisis.” 

He said climate changed had reached a “moment of crisis” and added: “Suddenly in the past few years it has become inescapable that we have to act.

“The time to act is now, the challenge could not be clearer, Greta you have been heard.”

Energy minister Claire Perry, however, refused to back Labour calls for the government to declare a climate emergency. 

She told the Commons: “The thing is I don’t know what that would entail. I could stand here and say I believe there is a climate emergency, he could say that, many of our local councils have done so - including my own council of Wiltshire.

“The question is what are you going to do about it, and that is why one of the things we should be proud of is we have I think the most detailed proposals for how we will hit our carbon budgets.”

She added: “It’s the easiest thing in the world for a politician to stand up and say ‘I’m going to do this, I’m going to set these targets’ knowing I’ll be dead and buried before those targets have to be met.”

Thunberg met other high-ranking politicians, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Green MP Caroline Lucas, at a separate event. 

The Prime Minister and the DUP were invited to the event but were not present. 

Lucas said those that turned up reached cross-party agreement. 

She said: “Today, we have agreed a few small steps – the task ahead of us is to put into action real changes that will ensure young people are guaranteed a secure, safe and prosperous future.

“We must do what is scientifically necessary, not what’s deemed politically possible. ”