Climate protest group Extinction Rebellion has said it was left “frustrated” by talks with environment minister Michael Gove today, because he would not declare a climate emergency.
Activists said Gove committed to discussions with London mayor Sadiq Khan on holding a citizens assembly on climate change, however.
The group, which held two weeks of climate protests in central London at the start of April, met today with Gove, who told ITN after the meeting that he shares its “high ideals”.
However, Extinction Rebellion’s youth spokesperson Felix Ottaway O'Mahony, 14, said the government officials in the meeting “just spoke about what they’re already doing”.
Extinction Rebellion’s Clare Farrell, who was also at the meeting, said: “What failed to emerge was an actual way forward.” She added: “Urgency wasn’t in the room.”
Yet Farrell commended Gove for a “radical reflection on our economic paradigm”. She said the environment minister said Britain’s current energy model was “extractive and destructive”.
Speaking following the meeting, Gove said he disapproved of the campaign group’s tactics of direct action.
Extinction Rebellion protests shut down large parts of central London and led to more than 1,000 activists being arrested. Critics said the protests caused economic damage to businesses and called their tactics of targeting public transport counterproductive.
The group’s key demands are for the government to “tell the truth” about climate change; for it to commit to reducing carbon emissions; and for a citizens assembly to oversee climate issues.
Gove said that he agreed that emissions should be cut to zero but that “the key question” was one of “timescale” and “what is achievable”.
He said he was “open minded” about a citizens assembly – a deliberative body made up of members of the public – on climate change, and said that he would explore the issue with the mayor of London.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been contacted for comment.