Climate activists gathered to mark the end of protests that caused 11 days of disruption across London.
More than 1,100 people have been arrested since campaigners from Extinction Rebellion first blocked traffic in the capital on 15 April.
On the final day of action, protesters blocked roads, climbed on a train and glued themselves together in London’s financial district.
Hundreds of people met in Hyde Park for a “closing ceremony”.
Campaigners sat on the grass next to Speaker’s Corner – widely considered London’s home of free speech – singing and listening to musicians.
Transport for London said all roads are open around Marble Arch.
Skeena Rathor, of Extinction Rebellion, welcomed the “rebels” to the ceremony and described the crowd as “beautiful beings”, adding: “This is our pause ceremony.
“Welcome to the beginning of our pause.”
She invited the crowd to “begin a process of reflection”, adding: “Thank you for what you have done this week. It is enormous. It is beyond words.”
The crowd cheered and clapped when a speaker said “the police were amazing” during the days of blockades.
“We will leave the physical locations but a space for truth-telling has been opened up in the world,” event organisers said on their Facebook page.
“We would like to thank Londoners for opening their hearts and demonstrating their willingness to act on that truth.
“We know we have disrupted your lives. We do not do this lightly. We only do this because this is an emergency.”
Extinction Rebellion is urging the government to “tell the truth” about the scale of the climate crisis. It wants the UK to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and a Citizens’ Assembly set up to oversee the changes needed to achieve this.
On Thursday, 26 people were arrested on suspicion of aggravated trespass outside the Stock Exchange and on Fleet Street, bringing the total number of arrests up to 1,130 since the protests began on 15 April, the Met Police said.
Four people stood on top of a Docklands Light Railway (DLR) train while another glued herself to a train.
Five people were arrested on suspicion of obstructing the railway, the British Transport Police said.
Meanwhile, Dame Emma Thompson, who joined the activists on Saturday, has defended flying from Los Angeles to London to take part.
The actress said it was “very difficult to do my job without occasionally flying” but she was “in the very fortunate position of being able to offset my carbon footprint”.
More than 10,000 police officers have been deployed during the action.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the protests had been a “huge challenge for our over-stretched and under-resourced Metropolitan Police”.
The Met said on Wednesday it had imposed new conditions under the Public Order Act on the protest area in Marble Arch, making it a criminal offence to protest outside a designated area or incite others to protest outside of it.
The conditions will remain in force until Saturday.
Protests by Extinction Rebellion’s seemingly inexhaustible army of activists made plenty of headlines last week.
They say politicians are out of touch with climate reality. But what do they want, and can ministers realistically make it happen?
Let’s consider XR’s three core demands: for the government to “tell the truth about climate change”; to create a citizens’ assembly to oversee progress; and to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025.
- If Mrs May regularly referred to a “climate crisis” or “climate emergency”, that might fill their wish that the government should “tell the truth”.
- A citizens’ assembly looks unlikely, especially during the current constitutional mayhem of Brexit.
- And the third objective of cutting CO2 emissions to almost zero by 2025 is surely unachievable.
So, if not all this, then what?
This weekend, I asked environmentalists on Twitter for their suggestions about what ministers can do to show XR they mean business.
Here – in no particular order – is my summary of some of the responses, with my own micro-analysis along the way.
Heathrow expansion – Just cancel it, many said: impose a graduated tax on frequent fliers instead
This would be a huge symbolic step. Aviation forms a small proportion of UK emissions – but this would denote that ministers accept that climate change cannot be stopped by constantly fuelling a demand for growth.
Home insulation – One said insulating the UK’s draughty housing stock should become a National Infrastructure Priority – similar to upgrading the rail network
This would be a big victory for protesters. The Treasury don’t like subsidising property owners to improve the value of their houses – but there are few other plausible solutions big enough to tackle a vast problem.
Make electric cars work, others tweeted. They say the Department for Transport is failing to deliver a charging network
This is vitally important. The government is committed to zero emissions cars anyway, as part of its long-term climate plans. But ministers have been relying on the market to provide a charging network. And it hasn’t.
I recently borrowed an electric car for a trial visit into deepest Dorset. Both local charging stations malfunctioned, so I plugged into my sister-in-law’s house. It blew her electrics. Sorry, Jane.
How about getting farmers to cut emissions? UK farming has barely reduced emissions and some experts want widespread re-wilding so trees can capture CO2
This farming challenge can’t be ducked. The government knows farmers have to cut emissions faster, but it’s keen to protect them from economic damage. At least there’s more policy flexibility with Brexit.
Stop tax breaks to North Sea oil and gas – and ban fracking, others said
If the ministers adopted this suggestion, it would show they were willing to put climate protection ahead of concerns over tax-raising and balance of payments.
A tough ask for the Treasury, but one protesters say must be met if ministers really are serious about the climate.
Bring back onshore wind, they say: it’s cheap and effective
Another policy that would show ministers are putting the climate before politics. Onshore wind farms are popular with the public at large but ministers rejected them after a fusillade of protests from constituents.
Make it the duty of business to reduce emissions and protect nature, it was suggested
The Bank of England governor Mark Carney seems already to be tip-toeing in this direction with his warnings to banks and firms about the risks of climate change. But how far can the present system change without breaking?
Get a move on, came another call. Many said if we really want to tackle climate change we should be going as fast as we can, not setting arbitrary target dates like 2050
This is a tricky one. Governments like to deal in hard numbers and targets, not “try your best” aphorisms. Even in the relatively climate-conscious nations those numbers aren’t always hit.
And how about ending consumerist capitalism?
My correspondents are divided on this.
Some think the current political system can deliver the investment needed for a carbon neutral economy, if ministers put the right policies in place urgently.
Other say only the overthrow of capitalism will protect the planet. The debate surely needs to be had, given the severity of the crisis in nature.
So what does the government say?
It says it is taking the climate protests seriously and rightly points out that it’s been an international leader with its Climate Change Act.
It will shortly consider whether to shift the UK’s long-term climate target to virtually zero emissions by 2050 – that’s tougher than the current 80% reduction by 2050. It admits that it’s falling short of its medium-term climate targets.
Will the changes I’ve outlined here be enough to satisfy XR? Maybe not – but they might weaken the movement by seducing some of their less ardent supporters.
Follow Roger on Twitter @rharrabin