Extinction Rebellion Lambeth statement on the response to the Covid-19 pandemic

14th May 2020

The corona pandemic has been devastating. It has stolen life, health and security at breath-taking levels, bringing heartbreak and hardship to so many of us. And once more the poorest and most marginalised members of our society have been the hardest hit.

But amidst the pain and fear are lessons that, if we have the courage and determination to learn them, might help us to tackle a crisis that scientists tell us dwarves Covid-19 in its terrible impacts – the climate and ecological emergency.

The sudden brake put on our way of life by the pandemic is being called the Great Pause. Car and plane traffic has decreased – replaced by cleaner air, birdsong and streets of walkers and cyclists; bus travel is free, and consumption is down. A seed is planted that maybe we could live differently.

Still, it is only a pause. The threat of the climate crisis hasn’t gone anywhere. This global slowdown will only result in around a 6% drop in emissions in 2020. A 7.6% drop is needed each and every year until 2030 to give us even a slim chance of limiting global warming to an already dangerous 1.5 degrees1.

Our industrial culture has loaded the atmosphere with more planet-warming carbon dioxide than at any time in the past 15 million years2. Accelerating environmental breakdown, including more pandemics, are certain unless we act fast.

And that’s one of the big lessons that Covid-19 has taught us: that huge and rapid change in the face of a shared threat is possible. That ordinary people can readily & generously adapt, and that the money can be found to pay for it.

It has also brutally exposed the old ‘normal’ as a dangerous place. A system of fragile food supplies and teetering economics, where bail outs can be found for polluting airlines and fossil fuel companies, but our key workers are under-paid & under-resourced.

This is the ‘Business as Usual’ disaster that so many of us know we mustn’t go back to. We need a new system where people and planet are put first, above the interests of corporations, oil giants and continued profits for a tiny minority.

XR Lambeth calls for a response to Covid-19 that both addresses the pandemic but also takes us rapidly towards a safe, fair and liveable world. At a local level, some of the actions we need to see are:

  • Involving Lambeth residents in decisions about the local response to the pandemic, and public discussions about the world we want to see
  • Ensuring Lambeth’s Citizens Assembly on Climate Change goes ahead soon, and that the Council commits to implementing its recommendations
  • Ending the reign of the the motor vehicle, significantly reclaiming streets for cyclists and pedestrians
  • Cancelling non-essential and carbon-intensive demolition and construction
  • Opposing bail-outs for fossil fuel companies, airlines and other unsustainable industries, and supporting workers in a fair transition
  • Investing in renewable energy and a green, resilient and caring economy.

It is critical that our response to the coronavirus puts the needs of people and planet first. There must be #NoGoingBack. This may be our last chance.


Want to find out more about the climate crisis? Attend this talk.

Contact your MP, London Assembly Member or Lambeth Councillor, or attend a Councillor Surgery to call for a response to Covid-19 that puts people and planet first.