Rooftop rebels descend after Marvin Rees acknowledges air pollution concerns

Photo credit: Simon Holliday

Today, after a week camped on top of Bristol City Hall, the rooftop rebels have descended. This followed Marvin Rees acknowledging Bristolians’ concerns on air pollution in his weekly Facebook Q&A last night.

A week ago we asked the Mayor and Bristol City Council three questions regarding the illegal levels of air quality in the city.

What are your plans? What have you achieved? What support do you need?

The public response we’ve been asking for from the Mayor, or Bristol City Council, has been delivered though Mayor Marvin Rees’s comments in his weekly Facebook Q&A (from 28:42 mins into the video) last night. So we’re responding to that now.

We thank Mayor Marvin Rees for acknowledging the concerns of the people of Bristol on air pollution.

Before this week, the Mayor announced they were seeking a delay in implementing their clean air plans. Plans which would have originally taken until 2025 to achieve clean air. The Mayor has now said they are considering bringing forward the compliance date from 2025 to the end of 2022.

Pete Hughes, Bristol XR’s Regional Coordinator, who has been on the roof for the last week, said:

“This action was not taken lightly. For the last two weeks we have been remembering the fact that nearly 300 people die in Bristol per year, and countless others are impacted, from toxic air. Let’s not forget that while we have been up there this week, on the basis of Bristol City Council’s own data, five more people in Bristol are likely to have died prematurely from air pollution. And there is a disproportionate impact on inner city communities.

“The truth is that environmental degradation such as poor air quality affects the poorest, historically oppressed and most vulnerable the worst, and the climate & ecological crisis will be no different further down the line.”

There has been a lot of talk by this administration about air quality and we acknowledge that work is going on behind the scenes. That is why we have also made demands on the West of England Combined Authority to stop road-building plans. But the intended Clean Air Plan does not deliver legal air as ‘soon as possible’.

The air quality in our city has been illegal for at least 26 years, and in the Mayor’s public statement on the matter in April, he requested to delay the implementation of Bristol’s Clean Air plans. We felt it was our duty to challenge this, especially given the link between air pollution & respiratory illnesses in the current pandemic. We ask the Mayor to deliver clean air as soon as possible. If other cities like Bath can achieve this by 2021 so can Bristol.

David Jones, Transport planner and an XR coordinator, said:

“In response to the Mayor’s statement about formal meetings, we were never here to seek more meetings, we were here to seek a public commitment to take fast action on air quality. We contacted the Mayor and City Council on 27 April and 21 June and more memorably nailed a letter to the door of City Hall last Monday, and still we have had, until yesterday’s Facebook consultation, no response to our enquiries.”

The Mayor has described XR’s occupation as ‘privilege activism’. In XR Bristol we want our actions to contribute towards positive change for Bristol on the climate & ecological emergency. We understand that this means we will come under fire and get labelled in different ways. The truth is that we are terrified – for our lungs, for our children’s futures, and dire impacts for those in the Global South.

We now ask the Mayor to engage with the people of Bristol and hold a Citizen’s Assembly to help the Council deliver clean air. Doing so would allow citizens and businesses to be consulted and give them an opportunity to contribute. This will ensure that the whole city can move forward together to achieve a vision of clean air for Bristol.

The rebels descended from City Hall roof this afternoon after necessary preparations and tidying up operations.

Join the closing ceremony

Tomorrow (Friday 3rd July), we will reconvene for a closing ceremony on College Green at 11:30am. It is time to rest and celebrate what has been achieved this past fortnight:

  • 11:30am arrival
  • 12pm skating and music for kids
  • 12:30pm – 2pm speeches and performance

Handing the mic to you!

If you want to have your voice heard tomorrow, please send your speech as an audio file (.wav, .mp3, .mp4) to [email protected]

Up to two minutes only. Please talk to one of the following topics:

  • Support for the rebels on the roof and your experience of the Clean Air For Life protest
  • Council failings and how air pollution impacts you personally
  • Your hopes for a clean air Bristol

Clean Air For Life, not just for lockdown