Environmental campaigners began a “Rebel Trail” from Birmingham last weekend along the route of the planned HS2 high-speed railway.
Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists, Stop HS2 campaigners and local communities are all taking part in the march, which will conclude in London’s Parliament Square this Saturday. They hope the 125‑mile long protest will draw attention to their concerns about the construction of the high speed line.
The pet Tory project threatens local habitats critical for wildlife, and is set to cost at least £100 billion of public money.
Joe Rukin, Stop HS2 campaign manager, said, “Right from the start, HS2 has been a railway fuelled by lies with grandiose and impossible promises made by those who will profit.”
Rukin said the most recent government go-ahead for the project was given “just as it was confirmed that parliament was lied to by HS2 bosses. They are desperate to keep their gravy train running,” he said.
Marchers will walk the route in groups of up to six people and stay in camps along the line where activists have been resisting construction.
Rebel Pat, who travelled from Huddersfield to be part of the trail, told Socialist Worker it felt “really good” to be there. “It’s ironic that last week the government was forced into making sure that kids got fed,” she said.
“And at the same time it’s spending £100 billion on something that’s going to be a benefit to nobody.
“The carbon footprint is going to be enormous and they’re getting rid of the ecosystems for something only a handful of rich people want.”
Activists say instead of building a headline-grabbing new project, the government could pour money into Britain’s ageing rail infrastructure.
“I live on the Transpennine route, one of the busiest rail links, and there are many trains that get cancelled, are late or don’t have enough carriages,” said Pat.
“How about getting that sorted out instead of spending more on other projects?”
From the outset, there’s been fierce opposition to HS2 from communities close to the construction areas.
Some of them face eviction.
Elizabeth Cairns from Extinction Rebellion and Stopping HS2 Chilterns said, “Globally we are living through the sixth mass extinction.
“Nationally we are approaching a recession unseen in scale since the 1920s.
“HS2 will not only adversely affect communities along the route, it will also contribute to the global climate crisis and taxpayers will be left to foot the bill for this destruction.”
The action comes at the same time as environmental groups are taking parent company HS2 Ltd to court.
In Bristol, rebels plan six days of action to highlight the climate catastrophe. The group said it would be “non-disruptive” and would “highlight different impacts of clean air in challenging, thought provoking and symbolic ways”.
A stark new warning about the government’s inaction over climate chaos was expected this week.
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) was due to present its annual report on Thursday.
It was likely to take a critical look at how the Tory government has done nothing to tackle the climate emergency over the last 12 months.
The committee’s chair, Lord Debden, said last year that the government’s efforts were like “Dad’s Army”.
The Tories claim they have a 2050 deadline to cut carbon emissions to 80 percent of their present level.
Yet government policies show no sign of attempting to seriously tackle carbon emissions, and the CCC is expected to make a number of proposals to tackle this.
It’s likely to suggest energy efficiency policies, a tax on fossil fuels, environmental conditions added to coronavirus bailouts for companies, and new cycling routes.
Bob Ward is the policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change.
He said, “Britain is due to hold the critical United Nations climate change summit next year, but its credibility as a climate leader is now under threat.
“Successive committee reports have warned we are not on course to meet our carbon budgets which set future emissions targets.”
Such stinging attacks from its own bodies show the level of inaction from the government.
It’s right that the Tories come under pressure from the CCC. But it’s time to move beyond handwringing from advisory bodies and turn to real and urgent action.
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