Eight protesters: two sit in canoes whilst the others hold a banner saying "Drowning in Promises"

XR Demand Climate Action From Council

In November 2018 Bristol City Council made history as the first UK local authority to declare a climate emergency.  

Over three years later, with flagship projects like the Clean Air Zone and City Leap delayed, some are questioning whether the council is walking the walk. 

Leading the criticisms are XR Bristol. Their new campaign, Greenwash-free Bristol, targets the council and businesses who the group accuse of greenwash, or deliberate misinformation designed to hide unsustainable practices behind green rhetoric. 

Keeping up the pressure, protesters from XR Bristol yesterday (Tuesday, March 16) staged a protest outside City Hall. Flags were planted on College Green and banners hung, one of which read “Climate Promises + No Plan of Action = Greenwash”.

The protesters also had three canoes with which they had intended to float on the pond outside City Hall under a banner reading “Drowning in Promises”. This plan was quashed by building security, however. 

Councillors arriving for the full council meeting were handed flyers questioning Bristol’s climate credentials. Citing Bristol’s 2018 Climate emergency declaration, the flyer read: 

“Three years have passed and BCC has not reported on progress towards a carbon neutral Bristol. A number of excellent projects have been initiated or supported, including community based renewable energy initiatives. 

“In January 2022, the Council’s response to a Freedom of Information request revealed these projects have reduced CO2-equivalent emissions by 9,209 tonnes per year. This is 0.5% of the reduction needed to achieve carbon neutrality for the city by 2030.” 

A protester sits in a canoe holding a sign that reads "empty promises don't float my boat."
Protesters had wanted to take to the waters around City Hall but were prevented by security. Image: James ward.

According to non-profit Climate Emergency UK, Bristol council’s Climate Action Plan ranks 36th of the 128 single tier authorities in the UK, beneath Cardiff, Leeds, Nottingham and Manchester.  

Council’s action plans were ranked by scorecards comprising nine criteria. Whilst Bristol scored above average in many areas it was let down by low scores on the Commitment and Integration section – scoring just one out of a possible seven marks – and Community, Engagement and Communication. 

Yesterday’s protest coincided with a council debate on a motion by Green councillor Emma Edwards to dedicate a portion of money granted to the council by the West of England Combined Authority to a feasibility study of alternative green mass transit options to mayor Marvin Rees’s favoured idea of a Bristol underground rail network. The motion was passed by a majority vote. 

Recognising the need for rapid and transformative action to become net zero, Edwards said that her motion is not about favouring one option over another, but is instead ‘about what can we deliver the fastest. What can we start tomorrow?’

Image: James Ward.

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