DEMAND AN END TO POVERTY THIS GENERAL ELECTION
TAKE ACTION
Activism

Insulate Britain defends protests and says 'conventional activism' has failed

Insulate Britain's "disruptive" methods of protest are being questioned. But with weeks until global climate event COP26, the group says the time for polite activism is over.

Image: Insulate Britain

Controversial climate action group Insulate Britain has said “conventional” activism has failed to create change and defended its “disruptive” protests. 

Over the past five weeks, the group has repeatedly blocked the M25 and other major roads. The protests have led to hundreds of arrests, new laws to stop their stunts and huge media attention.

But members’ actions, which also include supergluing themselves to roads, have been met with criticism from the public as well as politicians and the police.

Now, spokesperson Dr Bing Jones has told The Big Issue that members feel their methods are the only way to bring about real change.

“Despite all the efforts by the other groups, particularly more conventional groups like Greenpeace, progress is ridiculously slow and we have very little time,” he said.

“Conventional politics, conventional demonstration, conventional lobbying just are not working. So, we have to be more disruptive.”

Differing from other climate groups, Insulate Britain has one specific demand. It wants all social housing in the UK to be fully insulated by 2025 and for the government to complete low energy and low carbon retrofits for all homes by 2030. 

Activist Cameron Ford joined the movement after hearing former chief scientific adviser Sir David King explain that the next three to four years would determine the path of humanity when it comes to the climate crisis. 

“I think XR have done a fantastic job of raising the alarm bells and they’ve moved the conversation on massively but when I heard about this very much solution-based movement Insulate Britain, I feel that that’s the next wave of what we need,” he said.

“Insulate Britain needs to be here because we are not seeing the result that we need to.

“We can’t just keep gently scratching on the door of the government saying: ‘Come on would you please do a bit more.’ We need to show them that we are serious about their inaction.” 

When asked about possible collaboration between Insulate Britain and other climate groups, Ford said: “I think we are all banging on at Number 10 in different ways right now. Insulate Britain is a pretty new movement, we do not have a lot of people or resources. It is really difficult to have these cross committees on how we are going to approach it all together.” 

“We’re all going to be doing our own thing, but it’s all for the same goal.”

Article continues below

Current vacancies...

Search jobs

Insulate Britain has recently made the decision to suspend its infamous road protests for 11 days as it acknowledged the disruption in an open letter to the prime minister. 

“We cannot imagine undertaking such acts in normal circumstances. But the dire reality of our situation has to be faced.” 

Greenpeace’s head of climate has defended Insulate Britain’s actions, suggesting the group is balancing the threat and disruption caused by their protests versus the threat and disruption caused by the climate crisis. 

Speaking of the group, Kate Blagojevic said: “The climate movement as a whole is a web, everyone is doing their bit and every group has its own space. There is a space for XR and Insulate Britain – that’s exactly what makes a democracy is the ability to use different tactics. Imagine if we were all to do the same thing- that would not be powerful.

“It is not for me to say what activism should look like, it is up to the individuals taking part to assess their own risk. Greenpeace also makes use of direct action – just last week we blocked Downing Street – an action that did result in arrests.” 

Image: Insulate Britain

Executive Director of Greenpeace John Sauven, however, speaking to the Byline Times, criticised Insulate Britain.

He drew a distinction between the group and Extinction Rebellion: “The thing about direct action is that you put your own life and liberty on the line, but not those of other people…The problem with IB is that by going out in front of cars on a busy motorway I guarantee you that at some time people may be injured or killed.

“It puts innocent people, including children, at risk. Those people haven’t volunteered to do that and it oversteps the mark.” 

Green groups are expected to continue to put pressure on the government ahead of COP26 with the government being accused of failing to meet the climate goals it has agreed to. 

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Hollyoaks legend Emily Burnett: 'With the right people behind you, you can do anything'
Learning Disability Week 2024

Hollyoaks legend Emily Burnett: 'With the right people behind you, you can do anything'

Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke: 'Surviving brain injuries gave me a fire to keep going'
Exclusive

Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke: 'Surviving brain injuries gave me a fire to keep going'

'We are here and we exist': Inside the neighbourhood offering sanctuary to queer Russians and Ukrainians
Pride

'We are here and we exist': Inside the neighbourhood offering sanctuary to queer Russians and Ukrainians

Actor Liz Carr says it hurts to hear her younger self 'wanted to die'
Liz Carr
Disability rights

Actor Liz Carr says it hurts to hear her younger self 'wanted to die'

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know