By Madeline Woods
On 26 June individuals and groups from all over the country met in London to lobby parliament about Climate Change and future climate action. This included a number of people from the Leeds Diocese, gathering to meet their MPs. When asked why they had chosen to attend, a variety of reasons were given. Some of these were practical – simply wishing to have their voices heard by a government seemingly focused entirely on Brexit – and others were more personal – Michael Emly of Leeds North West (Our Lady of Kirkstall parish) said that he was attending “for the sake of our grandchildren”, and Jack Oakshatt said his motivation was “so my kids can grow up in a stable world full of wildlife and beauty”.
Studies have shown that peaceful protests can be incredibly effective. It reportedly only takes 3.5% of the population actively participating in a protest to ensure serious political change – with an estimated 12,000 people just at this event alone, this target is closer than ever in relation to Climate Change. Over 300 MPs came out to speak to their constituents. These included Alex Sobel MP of Leeds North West, Alec Shelbrooke MP of Elmet and Rothwell, Naz Shah of Bradford West and Fabian Hamilton of Leeds North East.
Alex Sobel MP is passionate about Climate Action, stating that “The UK needs to be a global leader on Climate Action,” and that the current net zero target of 2050 is too late. One specific example he gave of this was the diesel and petrol ban – the governmental aim is currently to have all new cars being effectively zero emission by 2040. Mr Sobel suggested that rather than 20, this ban should be more like 6 years away.
Mr Sobel was open to suggestions and discussion with his constituents, including discussing the lack of a major public transport system in Leeds. He confirmed that a Park and Ride system will happen around Leeds Bradford Airport in the future.
While Mr Sobel was open to discussing the issues and potential solutions in his constituency, he also stated that “it’s not about Leeds North West, it’s not about Yorkshire, it’s not about the UK. It’s about the world.”
Alex has shown his passion for the climate before, attending an event organised by the parish of Our Lady of Kirkstall at which families discussed the next steps they could take as individuals and those we must take as a country. The banner, pictured below, was created at this event. It features thumbs ups with names of those attending the event and those passionate about climate action in the local area, and suggestions from those at the event of what our future could look like.
Alec Shelbrooke MP met with 6 individuals from his constituency, pictured below. These included representatives of CAFOD and J&P living in St Benedict’s parish in Garforth, Greenpeace and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. Mr Shelbrooke stated that he supports a strong Environment Act, though is not sure a 2045 target for zero carbon emissions is achievable. Having worked as a mechanical engineer, he suggested that there are many technologicalsolutions to help us towards our net zero target.
The Environment Act was a strong factor in encouraging people to attend the lobby. Emma Temple, who is part of the Student Christian Movement at the University of Leeds, said that this was her reason for attending – “to hold MPs accountable an ensure that there will be a strong Environment Bill when leaving the EU.”
As well as individual campaigners, the event was attended by faith leaders, school groups and volunteers for many charities. The school groups had an additional area with activities, such as making signs with Christian Aid and dressing as Zero Heroes with CAFOD.
At 2pm at the event, campaigners’ alarms rang, a signal of the reason for the event – The Time is Now.
The event was a definite step in the right direction, as well as being a fantastic day with an amazing atmosphere.