Insulate Britain: The climate activists blocking motorways

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The past few years have seen many protests by environmentalists, from ‘Youth Strike for Climate’ to Extinction Rebellion. Now another group, calling themselves Insulate Britain, have made headline news with their controversial protest methods.

Beginning on Monday 13th of September, the activists have repeatedly blocked the M25 at rush hour by sitting in the road – both at junctions and on the main highway. At the time of writing, the group have repeated this action four more times, only days apart – leading to a total of 339 arrests.

Wearing orange hi-vis jackets, the protesters from all over  the country have sat in lines across the roads whilst holding red, white, and blue banners displaying the name of their group. Some of their more recent demonstrations have also included written messages on the road in blue paint.

Insulate Britain say they want the UK government to immediately promise to fully fund and take responsibility for the insulation of all social housing in Britain by 2025. Additionally, they want the conservative government to promise to produce a legally binding national plan to fund and take responsibility for whole house retrofits of all the houses in Britain by 2030, with no externalised costs.

IB’s website states that the UK’s 29 million homes are the oldest and least energy efficient housing stock in Europe, and that 15% of the county’s total emissions come from heating homes. They also say that in order to meet the UK’s Paris Agreement obligations, emissions from heating and powering homes must be reduced by 78% in less than 15 years and then to zero by 2050.

These demands have the backing of industry experts too: Julia Barfield, architect and director of Marks Barfield Architects said, “[IB’s demands] will not only reduce carbon emissions but also create thousands of skilled jobs; significantly reduce fuel poverty and protect people from excessive heat as temperatures rise. This is hugely ambitious, so there is no time to lose.”

Furthermore, two industry networks, Architect’s Declare and Architects Climate Action Network, have published a letter of support to endorse the protestors’ aims, stating that “the industry is ready, people are in need and the government must show the leadership necessary in this emergency.”

However, the group have faced lots of criticism and anger from many, including those held up in the traffic caused by these protests and those not. Videos circulated on social media show multiple instances of drivers dragging protestors out of the road, leading the police to intervene in some cases to prevent further disorder.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has heavily criticised the protestors, stating that “this Government will not stand by and allow a small minority of selfish protesters to cause significant disruption to the lives and livelihoods of the hard-working majority.”

Despite receiving lots of condemnation of their tactics, they have succeeded in getting attention. By  taking such disruptive action they have got a great deal of media coverage and sparked online conversation in a way that traditional methods of protest (e.g. marching) never could accomplish with only a relatively small group of dedicated activists

The group have already achieved the recognition they so clearly want – only time will tell if their demands are met.