An Open Response from Extinction Rebellion Bristol to Mayor of Bristol: Marvin Rees

We are very grateful that Marvin Rees and members of Bristol City Council’s Environmental Sustainability Board (EBS) took time last week to meet with representatives from Extinction Rebellion (XR) to discuss the urgent action needed to deal with the Climate Crisis.

“Extinction Rebellion have played an important role by putting climate change high up on the political agenda. I will be one of many city leaders who welcome this.” Marvin Rees – 23/07/19

It was clear in the meeting that Marvin has heard XR’s message of ‘Act Now’, recognises the success of XR via peaceful protest and empathises with the role of protest to bring about democratic change. Although not agreeing with all of XR’s tactics and keeping his concern for disruption to Bristol citizens at the fore, our Mayor is undoubtedly aligned in wanting to address the urgency of the Climate Crisis and asked us for guidance on what actions can be taken by individuals, Bristol City Council (BCC), partner organisations and the Government.

Citizens’ Assembly

Our representatives spent a large portion of the meeting outlining XR’s 3rd demand: A Citizens’ Assembly with legislative power. Participatory democracy and overall system change is needed to address the state of emergency we are in. A Citizens’ Assembly would be proportionally representative and appropriately inclusive of our diverse community, something Marvin is passionate about. They would be presented with the facts and potential solutions by experts (e.g. scientists, ecologists and economists) and would then make decisions on the policy changes necessary to deal with the climate crisis. This is something that BCC could set up, but more pertinently, we asked Marvin to lobby UK Government on our behalf to achieve this 3rd demand on a National level. More info on Citizens’ Assemblies can be found here: https://rebellion.earth/act-now/resources/citizens-assembly

Act Now

Given the lack of mention of a Citizens’ Assembly in Marvin’s statement, this clear and critical demand was not heard, or it was misinterpreted and instead the statement criticises XR for ‘not having the answers.’ During the meeting, when pushed for answers to how we should #ActNow, our representatives alluded to plans that could be halted that are, quite literally, adding fuel to the fire of increasing carbon emissions: such as supporting the proposed expansion of Bristol Airport. They also endorsed Friends of the Earth’s “33 actions local authorities can take on climate change” (https://policy.friendsoftheearth.uk/insight/33-actions-local-authorities-can-take-climate-change). Members of the EBS mentioned that the Commission Climate Change have produced reports on practical steps for local authorities to take. We agreed that BCC should look at these reports and act on them. 

Tell The Truth

While signing contracts is not the most exciting activity, the Climate Emergency needs to be widely publicised. Between the declaration of a Climate Emergency by Bristol City Council in November and the beginning of the Summer Uprising last week, there is no evidence of a radical telling of the truth (as is XR’s 1st Demand on UK Government) by our Mayor or BCC. As a respected public figure, people will be influenced by what Marvin says and (more importantly) does to mitigate the converging ecological crises. As such, as one of the solutions, we still call on Marvin to #TellTheTruth and to keep telling the truth.

Moving Forward

 “We face a climate emergency and we need action now. It’s about focused action and results. A friend of mine said a problem well defined is a problem half solved. Marvin Rees – 27/07/19

XR has been successful in defining the problem and bringing the Climate Emergency into the public eye and are proud to be succeeding in engaging in conversations with people in positions of power. We have the paramount combined goal of tackling the climate crisis and need to work together. Our representatives will be meeting again with the Mayor and the EBS in August and we hope to have a further, very realistic conversation about a Citizen’s Assembly and how BCC and XR combined can, in Marvin’s words: “get Westminster looking outward.”

XR Bristol are soon to be holding a People’s Assembly with the Mayor and members of the EBS, as an example of the participatory democracy we advocate in our 3rd demand of a Citizens’ Assembly, and to connect the Mayor with the views of XR members who are passionate about tackling the climate crisis. We were pleased to have held a People’s Assembly with members of Avon & Somerset Police last Friday and have real hope in this desperate time of crisis that building positive relationships with authorities in our society is the way forward and the way to bring about change together. Climate Breakdown is a global issue that will affect all of us; individuals, businesses, authorities, policitians, people of every race, gender, culture and class and we welcome all, and every part of all, to join us.

Leaders

It is important to point out that XR is non-hierarchical and has no leaders. We are all concerned and passionate citizens trying to do the best we can. Some of us may have more time and energy to devote or more campaigning experience. Those who met with the Mayor and EBS and will do so again next month are representatives of the wider group.