Four Cambridge activists among Insulate Britain campaigners blocking M25 for second time in three days
Four Cambridge activists were among the Insulate Britain campaigners blocking the M25 for a second time in three days this morning (Wednesday).
Whittlesford-based carpenter Cameron Ford joined the protest on his 31st birthday, along with 60-year-old Buddhist teacher Priyadaka, Dave McKenny and Extinction Rebellion activist Donald Bell, all from Cambridge.
The four, who also joined Monday’s protest, were among 89 activists blocking roundabouts and a carriageway of the M25.
Drivers were seen shouting at the protesters at causing the hold-ups and police made multiple arrests.
Priyadka said: “It’s a real challenge to carry out this method... it's not something we lightly choose to do at all. It is painful and upsetting to do it. It physically affects me to hear what people say about it. I can't disagree with them, but the bigger picture will be more disruptive for everybody. And it's affecting us now. So acting works. But it's difficult.
“We’re causing disruption, and that isn’t a great thing to be doing. I can entirely understand why people don’t like it. I think it’s necessary to avoid greater disruption later on, in relatively few years when this [climate] crisis really hits us. So it's difficult, but please look at the bigger picture - I believe it’s worthwhile disruption.”
Traffic was blocked at five locations including junction 23 at South Mimms, where severe delays were reported, and the main anti-clockwise carriageway in Surrey between junction 9 for Leatherhead and 8 for Reigate.
A few miles away from this protest, there was also a four-vehicle accident, which police, fire service and ambulances attended.
Other locations blocked included junction 1b near the Dartford crossing, junction 25 on the M25, the A10 in Hertfordshire and junction 10 of the A3 in Surrey.
Insulate Britain has vowed to continue its protests until the government makes a meaningful commitment to insulate Britain’s 29 million “leaky” homes, which have been described as some of the oldest and most energy inefficient in Europe.
The government has criticised the protesters’ tactics and said it is already committed to spending £1.3billion on energy efficiency measures in the coming year.
Cameron added: "I don't feel very comfortable. This is really unsettling. I've never blocked a road before. People are trying to get on with their everyday lives and I understand that's the case. This is hugely disruptive and no one wants their lives disrupted. That's kind of why we're doing this. Because if we don't reduce carbon emissions, the climate and biodiversity crisis will be the ultimate disruption.
“Usually when you take any journey you will have to sit in traffic, and this is one of the most valuable reasons to sit in traffic.”
One protester appeared to glue a hand to the road.
A spokesperson for Insulate Britain said: “On Monday a hundred people blocked motorways. The people in cars are angry, they are outraged, they are disgusted. Rightly. What a thing to do. What stupidity. What idiots.So why are we doing it? Why is an 82-year-old stepping onto the road, a elderly man with a severe heart condition sitting in front of traffic, alongside mothers with children to care for, builders and electricians who just want to get on with their jobs, students with their whole lives ahead of them. Why? Because we are angry, because we are outraged, because we feel disgust beyond words. Because we will not stand by and see our families suffer, their livelihoods destroyed and our country betrayed.
“This country is facing the greatest crisis ever and we are told to plant trees and do the recycling. We can take the lies no longer. We are not stupid. We are not children, we are adults. We will no longer tolerate this dishonest pretence. We demand credible action now.
“Proper jobs for hundreds of thousands of people to start on the first real step – to insulate all the homes of this country - which gets us a bigger reduction in carbon emissions than any other investment. It is a total no brainer and yet this government refuses to get on with the job.
“All the government does is talk to its friends in the fossil fuel companies, who are more than happy to have our economy destroyed so that they can keep making their profits for another few years. They are disrupting not just today or this week but for the next hundred thousand years – for ever.
“In this country, in English Common Law, we have the right of necessity. It is legal to cause disruption to prevent even greater disruption, to prevent grotesque wrongdoing, to stop evil from happening. We are British: we live on these islands.
“We know our rights and traditions. We are not afraid of going to court to explain to our fellow citizens – to juries – why we are right. In fact we welcome it: the opportunity to make clear there is a line in the sand which you cannot countenance being crossed. We are well over that line in 2021. And we all know it.”
In response to Monday’s protests, a spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy said: “People’s day-to-day lives should not be disrupted, especially on busy motorways where lives are put at risk and resulting traffic delays will only add to vehicle emissions.
“We are investing £1.3 billion this year alone to support people to install energy efficiency measures, and our upcoming Heat and Buildings Strategy will set out how we decarbonise the nation’s homes in a way that is fair, practical and affordable.”
The government said the Energy Company Obligation had already installed 3.3 million measures in 2.3 million homes and was increasing spending from £640million to £1billion a year to help help an extra 305,000 families with green measures such as insulation, leading to average energy bill savings of around £300 a year.
Other measures include the Local Authority Delivery Scheme, which is helping to install green upgrades to around 50,000 low-income households. The government has committed to providing an extra £200million to local authorities, which will take its energy efficiency spending to £1.3billion in the upcoming financial year.
Meanwhile, its Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF) aims to upgrade socially rented homes that have an EPC below C to that standard, with £62m of funding already awarded to social landlords across England and Scotland through the SHDF Demonstrator project, to test innovative approaches to retrofitting at scale.
And £150million was spent in the first phase of the Home Upgrade Grant, which enables people living in the worst performing off-gas-grid homes can receive a grant of between £10,000 and £25,000 to upgrade their home. Grants are available to those with a household income below £30,000.
The government said the right to protest was a cornerstone of British democracy, but “must be balanced with the rights of hardworking people to go about their business without extreme disruption”.
It warned that Insulate Britain’s actions were also diverting police resources away from fighting crime, and said that new measures in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill would enable police to better manage such “highly disruptive protests”.
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