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The other Gandhi statue in London's Tavistock Square. Photo: L. Shyamal via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA).
The other Gandhi statue in London's Tavistock Square. Photo: L. Shyamal via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA).
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  • Climate action 4th May 2015 - be there! Image: Occupy Democracy.
    Climate action 4th May 2015 - be there! Image: Occupy Democracy.

Occupy Gandhi: a tarpaulin meditation on urgent climate action

Donnachadh McCarthy

3rd May 2015

After the world's warmest year ever governments are pouring trillions into fossil fuels every year and the UK has even created a legal obligation on itself to maximise oil and gas recovery, writes Donnachadh McCarthy. But thanks to the UK's media billionaires climate change has not even figured as an election issue. Join us to protest tomorrow!

The UK's extremist right wing billionaire-owned media are ensuring that our general election campaign is being almost totally silent on this existential threat to the future of the UK.

Fifteen, fourteen, thirteen ...

When Bill McKibben and launched their amazing fossil-fuel Divestment Campaign in 2013, we had 15 years in which to avoid exhausting the carbon budget. We now have only 13 years left and ticking.

The divestment campaign importantly is branding the fossil fuel industry as an unethical enterprise. But we need to now go even further and actually criminalise their genocidal and ecocidal activities.

An essential first step would be to criminalise further investment in fossil fuel exploration. McKibben's carbon budget means that 80% of already discovered fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground.

This means that globally the maximum we can afford to release is less than 475 billion more gigatonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere prior to 2050, to avoid catastrophic global temperature rises of more than 2C. But according to the carbon in the world's proven reserves of coal, oil and gas amounts to 2,795 gigatonnes.

So why are government pouring trillions into fossil fuels?

Yet despite this alarming statistic, the Overseas Development Institute reports that global governments and oil corporations are squandering $125 billion dollars a year on finding yet more destructive fossil fuels! Government subsidies for fossil fuels amounted to a further $500 billion globally every year.

Both Labour and the Con-Dem coalition governments in the UK have provided huge subsidies for fossil fuel exploration both in the UK and around the world. Labour, Lib Dems, UKIP, the Tories and SNP all promised to provide even more subsidies in their 2015 general election manifestos - while simultaneously claiming they were committed to tackling the climate crisis!

The UK government claims it is helping firms "to find fossil fuels within the UK to increase energy security, attract royalties and help with the balance of payments." In November 2014 the BBC reported that George Osborne has introduced annual subsidies of up to £757 million.

These included tax breaks worth £528 million to Total (France), £256 million to Statoil (Norway), £144 million to Centrica (UK) and £45 million to Chevron (USA). Added to this, Business Secretary Vince Cable has been spending £418 million annually in public finance for oil exploration in Siberia, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Guinea and Ghana.

Con-Dems create a legal obligation to exploit fossil fuels

However, the corrupt influence of the fossil-fuel lobbying industry on the UK's corridors of power excelled even itself in the pro-fossil fuel provisions it managed to get inserted into the 2015 Infrastructure Act.

Whilst fractivists were protesting across Britain against toxic polluting fossil-gas fracking in their communities, the oil lobbyists successfully got the government to legislate for a legal duty on the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change to "maximise the economic recovery of petroleum" and to legally collaborate with the petroleum industry to do this.

Remember this very same Secretary of State is simultaneously legally required to cut UK green-house gases by 80% by 2050 under the Climate Change Act!

A recent report by WWF and Ecofys, calculated that if we invested between$1-$2 trillion in renewable energy and energy efficiency per year now, by 2050 the world economy would be making a net saving of up to $4 trillion.

But there is good news - in January Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported that in 2014 we were already investing $310 billion on renewable energy globally. So if we switch investment in the suicidal search for yet more fossil fuels and the government subsidies, to investments in renewables/efficiency, it would add up to nearly a trillion dollars annually.

Challenging the extremist media billionaires

As the UK's extremist right wing and climate-sceptic billionaire-owned media are ensuring that our general election campaign is being almost totally silent on this existential threat to the future of the UK, we are organising a peaceful direct action on the bank holiday Monday 4th May, starting at 12 noon.

It is calling for the criminalisation of UK fossil-fuel exploration and investment. We are calling it 'Occupy Gandhi: A Tarpaulin Meditation on Urgent Climate Action'. It is part of the Occupy Democracy week of protests leading up to the general election in Parliament Square.

It will take place at the feet of the recently installed statue of Mahatma Gandhi, the global exemplar of peaceful civil disobedience, in Parliament Square.

As Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London bizarrely declared in October that tarpaulin is "a proscribed item" in the square, as he claimed it was "sleeping equipment" which has been banned by Parliament, the meditation will take place with us sitting on tarpaulin, which we are asking protesters to bring with them.

Even if you do not wish to join in the act of peaceful civil disobedience but wish to join the meditation in support of those of us who are, you and people of all faiths and none are very welcome.

The clock is ticking fast. There will be only eight McKibben years left at end of this Parliament! The time for effective action is now.



Action: Please come and help demonstrate our determination to ensure urgent action takes place now! At the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Parliament Square, London, Monday 4th May, starting at 12 noon.

More information on Facebook and Twitter / #OccupyGandhi and Occupy Democracy. Telephone: 07947 884299.

Donnachadh McCarthy is a member of Occupy Democracy, co-organiser for Occupy Rupert Murdoch Week and is the author of "The Prostitute State - How Britain's Democracy Has Been Bought".


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