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Gove admits Government must act as climate change protesters reach Parliament

Extinction Rebellion members assembled in Parliament Square as activist Greta Thunberg met Westminster party leaders in the House of Commons.

(Kirsty O’Connor/PA)
(Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Scores of eco-protesters were massed outside Parliament as Environment Secretary Michael Gove admitted “we have not done nearly enough” on man-made climate change.

Extinction Rebellion (XR) members assembled in Parliament Square on Tuesday at around noon, continuing the second week of disruptive demonstrations as politicians returned to work after the Easter recess.

As the crowd chanted, heard speeches and wrote letters to MPs, influential 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg was meeting Westminster party leaders in the Commons just yards away.

The Swedish Nobel Peace Prize nominee, who has sparked a wave of youth climate protests around the world, told a politician’s roundtable on Tuesday: “We just want people to listen to the science.”

Miss Thunberg met Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Liberal Democrat Sir Vince Cable, Green MP Caroline Lucas and the Westminster leaders of the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru, Ian Blackford and Liz Saville Roberts.

Theresa May was “empty-chaired” at the meeting as she was attending Cabinet at the time.

Speaking at an event in the Palace of Westminster, Miss Thunberg later said her future and those of her fellow children had been “sold”.

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An Extinction Rebellion protester walks past a line of police officers in Parliament Square (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

She said: “We probably don’t even have a future any more.

“That future has been sold so that a small number of people can make unimaginable amounts of money.”

Mr Gove later told Miss Thunberg she had been heard and admitted “we have not done nearly enough”.

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Environment Secretary Michael Gove, left, former Labour leader Ed Miliband, 2nd right, and Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, right, discuss the need for cross-party action to address the climate crisis (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

He said: “Suddenly in the past few years it has become inescapable that we have to act.

“The time to act is now, the challenge could not be clearer, Greta you have been heard.”

Student Jade Edwards, from Worcestershire, said of politicians meeting Miss Thunberg: “If they listen to her that’s a great step forward for the planet and everything that lives in it.”

XR is urging the Government to declare a climate emergency to avoid what it calls the “sixth mass extinction” of species on earth.

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Extinction Rebellion protesters reach their final destination of Parliament Square (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Dozens of police officers lined the fringes of the Parliament Square demonstration on Tuesday – with Scotland Yard earlier saying it had a “robust” policing plan in place.

The force has warned demonstrators they must leave a designated area by 11.59pm or be liable to arrest.

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Police watch Extinction Rebellion protesters (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Police also moved to limit the scale of the protest around Marble Arch on Tuesday with conditions imposed aimed towards reopening the surrounding roads.

More than 1,000 people have been arrested during XR protests which started on April 15, while more than 10,000 police officers have been deployed.

Elliott Cuciurean, 20, believed to be the first climate activist successfully prosecuted over the fresh wave of Extinction Rebellion protests, was spared a fine at a court hearing on Tuesday.

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Extinction Rebellion protesters outside Parliament (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

XR action has seen Waterloo Bridge and Oxford Circus blocked and a “die in” at the Natural History Museum.

Elsewhere, activists have glued themselves to trains, chained themselves to objects, and some could even be seen perching in hammocks up trees overlooking Parliament Square.

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A climate change protester in a hammock in the tress of Parliament Square (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Members of XR have previously indicated temporarily ending disruptive tactics to focus on political negotiations.

Protester Steve Jones, 53, suggested some of the disruption may be relaxed if the group was granted “meaningful discussions” with the Government.

The Metropolitan Police said 1,065 people had been arrested in connection with the demonstrations by 10am on Tuesday, while 69 of those had been charged.

Three people have been charged by British Transport Police in connection with the protests.

On Easter Monday, at least 100 protesters laid down under the blue whale skeleton at the Natural History Museum in a stunt organisers called a “die in”.

PA

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