By Billy Stockwell, Climate Correspondent
A large group of Extinction Rebellion protestors have gathered on College Green in Bristol city centre today, Tuesday 22th June, demanding a dramatic reduction of air pollution levels in the city.
Today’s ‘Five A Week’ protest is a symbolic action to draw attention to the number of deaths caused by air pollution in Bristol each week.
Large cubes were constructed on College Green yesterday morning ahead of the protest, reading ‘CLEAN AIR FOR LIFE, NOT JUST FOR LOCKDOWN’.
According to Extinction Rebellion, these are the same cubes that were seized by the police during the International Rebellion in London last year.
Statements such as ‘RIP in Lawrence Hill (Most Toxic Part of Town)’ and ‘Air Pollution is Killing Me!’ were written on placards.
Protestors took it in turns to stand on the display cubes in silence for 2 minutes, to mourn the premature deaths of those in Bristol who die each year as a result of air pollution.
The protest is part of a wider Extinction Rebellion campaign in Bristol called ‘Clean Air for Life’, which call for Bristol City Council and the West of England Combined Authority to ensure air pollution levels in Bristol are at safe levels by April 2021.
One activist, Fi Radford, 72, told Epigram that she hoped today ‘will spur Bristol City Council into urgent action on air quality.’
‘Five people a week die as a result of Bristol’s polluted air. Would five deaths on the roads a week be tolerated,’ she said.
She added that Bristol City Council now need to ‘get on with’ making changes.
‘It takes real courage and leadership to stand up to the powerful car lobby’ she said. ‘But there is no avoiding the fact we need fewer cars on the roads in the city, and safer cycling and walking [infrastructure].’
Speaking directly to students, she declared: ‘We need your voices and your bodies on the streets. We need your energy and creativity.’
Bring your own silent protest down to College Green before 2pm - today we remember the five people per week who die tragically due air pollution in Bristol #cleanair4life #fiveaweek pic.twitter.com/9co2upWb0Z— Extinction Rebellion Bristol (@XRBristol) June 23, 2020
‘2020 is make or break … sorry I can’t be more positive but there is still time, just.’
In a report published last year by Bristol City Council, air pollution in the city centre was found to be above the legal limit at all monitored sites. Nitrogen dioxide was one of the main pollutants of concern.
The Council were planning to reduce emissions by implementing a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) by March 2021, focusing on the most polluted parts of the city.
A Clean Air Zone (CAZ) is a location where targeted action has been taken to reduce emissions, by introducing travel charges for less environmentally-friendly cars, for example.
An extension to introduce this plan was placed due to the coronavirus pandemic - a decision that has come under fire as many campaigners and academics in the city are emphasising the importance of a ‘green recovery’ following the pandemic.
However, Bristol City Council have been made to consider the health and social factors in the wake of the pandemic, when making any decisions.
A Bristol City Council spokesperson said: 'We have a moral, environmental and legal duty to deliver clean air for Bristol, and we are committed to doing so in way that protects the most disadvantaged in our city.
'The Government has directed us to implement a medium CAZ C with additional measures by April 2021.'
Today’s protest occurs during an important week for climate action, with the UK’s Committee on Climate Change publishing their annual progress report this Thursday.
Similar to previous years, this year’s report will highlight the Governments continuing failures to meet its climate commitments.
Further protests are planned in the next few days, as outlined below:
- Wednesday 24th: Clean air is good for business – “Money Does Grow on Trees” location TBA
- Thursday 25th: Clean air for life – “The Shoes of The Missing” on College Green
- Friday 26th: Clean air for our children – “The Washing Line” location TBA
- Saturday 27th: Clean air for our streets – “Where Does the Dirt Land?” location TBA
Featured: Paula Rue
Have you attended today's Extinction Rebellion demonstrations?