Britain has recently experienced a surge in civil disobedience, particularly at major sporting events, with climate groups leading the protests. This comes as the United Nations Secretary-General and the World Meteorological Organization have both sounded the alarm on climate change and record-breaking temperatures. Just Stop Oil (JSO), a non-violent environmental activist group, has been at the forefront of these protests, demanding that the UK government cease licensing new oil, gas, and coal projects. They have disrupted several high-profile events, including Premier League matches, Wimbledon, and the British Grand Prix. Despite criticism, JSO believes that these tactics are necessary to bring attention to the urgency of the climate crisis.
While JSO’s disruptive protests have attracted media attention, public opinion remains divided. A YouGov survey found that although climate change and the environment are considered important issues, only 68% of respondents supported JSO and its tactics. Some argue that disruptive protests may hinder rather than help the cause, and that targeting major sporting events may only anger the public. However, an expert survey revealed that many academics believe disruptive protests can be effective in addressing climate change. Celebrity support, such as that shown by sports presenter Gary Lineker, can also help raise the profile of the issue.
JSO’s tactics have drawn criticism from senior politicians, who argue that they are causing chaos and disrupting people’s lives. The Home Secretary has proposed amendments to expand police powers to deal with protests. However, critics argue that blaming protesters is not the answer and that these extreme tactics arise from a frustration with government inaction on climate change. The UK government’s target to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 has been deemed insufficient by the High Court. There is growing dissatisfaction with the government’s approach to climate change, especially as extreme weather events become more frequent.
Looking ahead, the environmental movement is experiencing a divergence in tactics. While some groups like JSO continue to pursue disruptive actions, others are shifting towards less destructive and more inclusive tactics. Extinction Rebellion, for example, has called for a moratorium on large-scale demonstrations on major infrastructure, opting for alternative forms of protest. The future of climate activism in the UK remains uncertain, but it is clear that the issue of climate change is firmly entrenched in the public consciousness and is a key concern for voters leading up to the next general election.