UK is first country to declare state of climate emergency

Following weeks of protests in cities all around the country, the United Kingdom has become the first country in the world to declare a state of environment and climate emergency.

An Extinction Rebellion protester on Oxford Street, one of Britain's busiest shopping districts, demanding immediate government action to reverse climate-toxic policies. Image: Graham Pleasants
An Extinction Rebellion protester on Oxford Street, one of Britain's busiest shopping districts, demanding immediate government action to reverse climate-toxic policies. Image: Graham Pleasants

The United Kingdom has declared a state of environment and climate emergency, the first country in the world to do so. 

The proposal is symbolic of the country’s willingness to act on climate change, but does not legally oblige the government to take action. 

The idea was proposed by Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the UK’s left-wing Labour party, and follows a series of large public protests by environmentalist group Extinction Rebellion (XR), who have been blockading roads to protest against the British government’s inaction on climate change. More than a thousand XR protesters have been arrested in recent weeks.

XR says that the UK government’s pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 falls well short of meeting climate goals, and have demanded a rolling back of all climate-toxic policies, such as investment in fossil fuels power generation or barriers to clean energy.

Corbyn told climate protesters at Parliament Square today that the climate emergency declaration could “set off a wave of action from parliaments and governments around the globe.”

An extinction Rebellion protest in Japan. Image: XR Japan

“We pledge to work as closely as possible with countries that are serious about ending the climate catastrophe and make clear to US President Donald Trump that he cannot ignore international agreements and action on the climate crisis.”

Corbyn was referring to Trump’s pledge to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

The Extinction Rebellion movement has taken root in countries in Asia Pacific since it launched in London earlier this year, with demonstrations hitting towns and cities in New Zealand, Australia, Japan, and India in recent weeks. However protests have yet to emerge anywhere in Southeast Asia, where public protesting is less common.

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