Protesters from Extinction Rebellion (XR) staged a demonstration outside Kingston Guildhall today (June 25), one year after the borough council declared a climate emergency situation.

A number of XR activists gathered outside Kingston Council (RBK) headquarters in the centre of town, in sweltering 32-degree Celcius heat, holding placards.

They accused the council of a lack of action since their declaration of a climate emergency last June, an accusation the council rejects.

A statement drafted by the environmental activist group for the protest directed a number of questions at RBK's leadership to question their words to deeds ratio regarding the escalating climate crisis.

"On 25 June 2019, RBK declared a climate emergency, recognising the huge threat from climate and ecological breakdown, and committing to reducing its impacts in the borough.

"We’re inviting RBK to share their plan for protecting the future of Kingston residents and tell us how they are leading the way in standing up for the planet. Some of the questions we’re asking include:

  • Are you divesting your pension fund out of fossil fuels?
  • How are you reducing air pollution in the borough?
  • Are you monitoring air quality outside schools?
  • How are you defending Kingston against the risk of flooding?
  • How much have you invested in carbon-free transport?
  • Have you committed to protecting Seething Wells from further development and restoring it as a haven for nature?
  • Why have you felled so many mature trees, including at Tolworth Court Farm?
  • Will you let wild zones and verges flourish to encourage pollinators?

"We’re sure RBK will point out some of the small changes they’ve made, such as their plans to install more electric vehicle charging points in the borough,’ Christopher Smith, a spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion Kingston, said.

"But scientists say we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction. This is not the time for token gestures and lip service," he continued.

In a response to the protest, RBK rejected the accusation that they had not done enough to combat the climate emergency.

In a statement seen by the Comet, a spokesperson for the Council pointed to a number of actions the council had taken since declaring the emergency, following many other councils, the UK Parliament and Extinction Rebellion themselves in doing so.

"Since the declaration, the council has worked to ensure our commitment to the climate emergency is at the heart of all we do.

"We have employed dedicated staff, such as a biodiversity officer, to support us in our aspiration to be a cleaner, greener borough, and have created learning opportunities for staff to create a carbon literate workforce which can deliver real change for Kingston," the statement read.

"We have continued to engage with residents about the climate emergency and wider sustainability issues, notably in last year’s Citizens Assembly on the subject of Air Quality," it added.

Citizens Assemblies across the country to address the climate emergency with direct democracy are another central demand of Extinction Rebellion.

A third demand is totally decarbonizing the UK economy by 2025.

RBK pointed to two measures in particular that point to modest progress on addressing the climate emergency. Namely, the monitoring of air quality outside schools, and the installation of more electric charging points for electric and hybrid cars — 24 have been installed across 11 sites this year so far.

XR Kingston said the council's measures don't go far enough, however.

"During lockdown, carbon emissions temporarily fell everywhere and the improvements in our area were obvious – this shows that radical changes are possible," Christopher from the group said.

"We’d love to see our borough inspire others with some big, bold steps that will really make a difference. RBK have themselves said this is an emergency – so where’s their sense of urgency?"