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XR’s ‘Braintrust’ seeks faster path to Net Zero


13 July 2020

Academics and other policy specialists sympathetic to the objectives of climate direct action group Extinction Rebellion (XR) have formed a new group to explore how to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions long before the UK’s 2050 statutory target (2045 in Scotland).

The XR Braintrust includes Steve Melia, a senior lecturer in transport and planning at the University of the West of England; Rupert Read, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of East Anglia; the Australian economist Steve Keen; and George Barda, a founder member of XR.

Melia told LTT this week: “It is at an early stage at the moment, working out its future direction. Someone has just created a website, which will be going live with initial content shortly.

“It has been set up by people connected to XR, is supportive of XR, but independent. The reason for that is because XR does not campaign for specific policy solutions. It call for those to be decided by a citizens’ assembly.   

“That is a sensible solution but it begs the question: how can we decarbonise more quickly? At the moment, all the academic and governmental analyses – including the UK climate assembly – are taking 2050 as their target.

“The Braintrust will analyse and suggest how we should decarbonise more quickly. How quickly might be possible? That’s one of the questions we will be considering.  XR’s demand is for zero carbon by 2025, but we are not bound by that.

“My view is that it [the Braintrust] should act like a think tank, providing a platform for reports or articles written by different people, which the whole group doesn’t necessarily have to agree with. I intend to contribute some material about transport.”

Melia believes decarbonising on an accelerated timescale will demand different transport policies from those for a 2050 target date. “We need to electrify or change the fuels powering vehicles as quickly as possible. Modal shift and demand management are only relevant insofar as they support that transition. 

“Reducing vehicle ownership will be much more important than reducing vehicle use, which has been the main concern of transport planners and researchers, including me, up to now.”

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