Birmingham Bishop joins Extinction Rebellion protests in London - here’s why

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City leaders, including the Acting Bishop of Birmingham, join the Extinction Rebellion The Big One protest

Birmingham leaders from different backgrounds - including the Bishop of Aston and Acting Bishop of Birmingham Anne Hollinghurst - attended Extinction Rebellion’s The Big One protest in Westminster at the weekend.

The XR protest will culminate today (Monday, April 24) with a people’s picket at Parliament Square. The Birmingham leaders joined the climate activists’ call for UK leaders to acknowledge the urgency of net zero targets.

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They highlighted that this is particularly important for the West Midlands as the region has the least energy efficient housing stock in England. Parts of the region - including several Birmingham constituencies - are at the top of the league tables for fuel poverty.

At the protest, Brummies used their creativity to get their message across, with a wendy house on wheels made in Sutton Coldfield on display to highlight poor fuel provision in local homes. The different elements of retrofitting were added to the wendy house in a street theatre performance.

There were demonstrations across the weekend, with Saturday being Earth Day, attracting more than 50,000 supporters. Many in the good-natured crowds wore fancy dress, including the distinctive red-robed army of XR protesters, while others wore masks depicting the King and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Unlike the Just Stop Oil protesters at the World Snooker championships last week, XR worked with London Marathon organisers to ensure their demonstrations did not disrupt the race yesterday (Sunday, April 24).

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What Birmingham’s faith leaders said

Bishop of Aston and Acting Bishop of Birmingham Anne Hollinghurst, who attended Friday’s demos issued a call to prayer “for the impact of this lawful peaceful protest, the focus [being] on demonstrating the acknowledged urgency of net zero targets and the strength of feeling, especially against the opening of a new licensing round to explore oil and gas in the North Sea.

“As Christians we are called to work for justice and care for creation. Our modern world, built on the burning of fossil fuels is damaging the good creation God has given us to tend, with its poorest communities suffering most across the world”.

Big One gathering (Photo - West Midlands Climate Storytelling Exchange)Big One gathering (Photo - West Midlands Climate Storytelling Exchange)
Big One gathering (Photo - West Midlands Climate Storytelling Exchange) | West Midlands Climate Storytelling Exchange

Birmingham clergy and faith group members were among a packed congregation at St John’s Church Waterloo on Friday for a No Faith in Fossil Fuels service.

After the “prayerful protest”, John Sentamu, formerly Bishop of Birmingham and Archbishop of York was refused entry to Shell’s HQ when he tried to deliver a campaign letter and the police were called on him.

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He said: “I think it is the most arrogant experience I ever had. You can’t be inhospitable when we are coming in peace.”

What other leaders from Birmingham said

Imandeep Kaur, co-founder of neighbourhood lab Civic Square which is working with North Edgbaston residents on a project which includes retrofit, said: “We have loads and loads of hope in this country. We’ve got the technologies, we’ve got the community, we’ve got the will, we’ve got the creativity, the numbers are growing and growing.

“The Department for Levelling Up has to understand it can’t do it from the centre of London - it has to devolve its resources quickly and boldly and at scale for the next 20 or 30 years to everybody who’s working in this space”.

Architect of the Zero Carbon House in Balsall Heath John Christophers led a demo outside the Department of Levelling Up focused on the poor energy efficiency of Britain’s housing stock and the scale of the task needed to “retrofit” this with insulation and green energy technology like solar panels.

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“Our old leaky homes are a Cinderella, haemorrhaging massive amounts of heat,” said Christophers. He added: “The most powerful means of upgrading homes and slashing carbon emissions with multiple benefits are already proven and available.

“We’re way behind in adapting homes to meet the effects of climate change that the Climate Change Committee estimates will cost 4% of our GDP by 2050.

“We need to fit 80,000 homes every month between now and 2050, yet the government’s Great British Insulation scheme will only reach 1% of the homes that need retrofitting”.

From L to R: Rev Patrick Gerard, Bishop Anne Hollinghurst, Rev Paul Hinton (Photo - West Midlands Climate Storytelling Exchange)From L to R: Rev Patrick Gerard, Bishop Anne Hollinghurst, Rev Paul Hinton (Photo - West Midlands Climate Storytelling Exchange)
From L to R: Rev Patrick Gerard, Bishop Anne Hollinghurst, Rev Paul Hinton (Photo - West Midlands Climate Storytelling Exchange) | West Midlands Climate Storytelling Exchange

Fuel poverty in West Midlands

Analysis across parliamentary constituencies by the End Fuel Poverty Coalition shows that, Birmingham has the worst level of fuel poverty in the country.

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Six Birmingham constituencies are among the top 13 with fuel poverty across England. As of April 1, some 23,041 households (almost 55%) in Hogde Hill - which is the worst affected - are living with fuel poverty.

Yardley is sixth in the table with 20,712 properties (46.7%) while Ladywood is ninth with 23,429 households (46 %).

What is fuel poverty?

The Commons Library defines fuel poverty as when households must spend a high proportion of their household income to keep their home at a reasonable temperature.

It is affected by three key factors: a household’s income, their fuel costs, and their energy consumption (which in turn is affected by the energy efficiency of the dwelling).

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Around 13% of households in England were classed as fuel poor, according to current estimates by the government.

Imandeep Kaur, co-founder of neighbourhood lab Civic Square  (Photo -  West Midlands Climate Storytelling Exchange) Imandeep Kaur, co-founder of neighbourhood lab Civic Square  (Photo -  West Midlands Climate Storytelling Exchange)
Imandeep Kaur, co-founder of neighbourhood lab Civic Square (Photo - West Midlands Climate Storytelling Exchange) | West Midlands Climate Storytelling Exchange

What the West Midlands Combined Authority is doing about fuel poverty

As of April 14, 2023, work started on upgrading the energy performance of 70 properties across the West Midlands by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), housing provider Orbit and VINCI Facilities Building Solutions.

Work is scheduled to be completed by the end of June 2023. The programme will benefit from a total of £1.4m from Government’s Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF) Wave 1, along with an additional £4.6m investment from Orbit, to provide more customers across the region with a more energy efficient home using the latest technology and innovation.

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