At the last Student Council meeting of the current academic year, held on Thursday 28 March, discussions centered around a motion to support the Extinction Rebellion, a civil disobedience organisation which aims to organise nonviolent direct action to force governments and elected representatives to react to climate change.
Other motions were raised with little opposition, including plans to construct a community garden at King’s Buildings and a proposal to dedicate a day towards a Holocaust Memorial, including genocides that took place in Europe, Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur as well as others.
The motion regarding climate change, introduced by Lucas Moore, asked that “the Students’ Association should officially support the aims of Extinction Rebellion and declare a climate emergency, to communicate this by publishing a statement publicly.”
Moore explained that by having major institutions and universities support the organisation, it gives legitimacy to the movement and provides a precedent for other universities to follow. The University of Manchester Students’ Union voted to support a similar motion earlier this year.
“We’re facing an unprecedented global emergency and the government is failing to do anything substantial about that,” Moore said. “The government has broken [its]social contract as it is no longer protecting its citizens.”
Concerns were raised over the possibility of violent action committed in the name of the Rebellion due to its decentralisation.
Its horizontal structure allows for mass participation, however takeovers from violent protesters are possible, which would reflect badly on the Students’ Association if it were to back the organisation.
However, Moore answered that the values of the group had already been codified, and emphasised non-violent protests and denounced all violent action. Therefore, any violent actions done in its name would be unequivocally condemned by the organisation.
Others believed that education was the key rather than civil disobedience, and argued that supporting an educational program would be more effective. Moore agreed with the use of education to combat climate change, however he emphasised the urgency of the situation.
Moore cited the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report which stated that the Earth had twelve years to reach the goals set by the Paris Climate Accords to keep global warming between 1.5-2 degrees Celcius before irreparable damage is caused.
Support from the Students’ Association would include campaigns to publicise the climate emergency, and funding to bring speakers to the university.
However, above all, the Students’ Association would publicly back the Extinction Rebellion and support its cause.
“I think this is a really important issue and I want to be on the right side of history,” Moore said.