“EXTINCTION Rebellion has to win. We don’t have another option.”

Durham County Councillor John Clare was speaking at the end of a year which has seen climate strikes and growing calls for environmental action up and down the country, including climate campaign group Extinction Rebellion’s activity to disrupt everyday life in London and elsewhere.

2019 was also a year when the council – along with about 65 per cent of others around the country – have declared a climate emergency.

In County Durham, that means the council has 30 years to become carbon neutral, cutting its current emissions of more than 60,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

But it’s a target many say is not ambitious enough.

Nicholas Kasch, 32, from Coxhoe, who is a member of Durham Extinction Rebellion and the Green Party, said: “If you ask an engineer they would say it’s pretty ambitious to go carbon neutral by 2040. The reality is we can never really be too radical and terms of what is being asked for.

“Every five or ten years we delay there is a greater risk. Past a certain point there’s a greater certainty that billions of people will be forced out of their homes and be facing starvation. And that’s not just on the other side of the world.”

The Northern Echo:

The message from one Extinction Rebellion campaigner in Durham

Cllr Clare, who was appointed as a “climate change champion” to advocate on the issue, said: “I’m not going to argue that we don’t need to do it as soon as possible. 2050 was chosen because when we looked at the barriers we thought it was a date we should be meeting though it didn’t mean we were happy with that.

“Many people are telling us we need to bring forward that date. But if we bring it forward to 2030 and we find out we can’t achieve it then what’s the point? The date doesn’t matter, what matters is we take action to bring the council and County Durham to carbon neutrality.”

“The scale is huge,” added Cllr Clare, who has just bought his first electric car and has recently become a vegetarian in response to environmental concerns.

“The council is doing little bits but it just doesn’t cut it. The changes have to be on an unimaginable scale. That has the danger that it’s going to be disruptive to people’s lives but it must be done without damaging industry if we want to carry people with us. If you say the cost of climate change is you must never have another Mcdonalds you will have lost the argument.”

The Northern Echo:

'The last human on earth' was staged by Extinction Rebellion member Nicholas Kasch in Durham this year

Mr Kasch, who has been involved in the Durham Extinction Rebellion group since its inception, has taken part in street performances, posing the last human on earth, taking part in a funeral for the planet, supporting climate strikes and demonstrations against local developments including proposed roads around Durham and the open cast mine near Dipton.

He added: “We have to get a bit spikier and do things that not everyone agrees with but are proportionate to the urgency of the problem.

“We’re focusing on the reality of the situation and saying it as loudly as we can.”

“I don’t think Extinction Rebellion has done anything that has caused more disruption than a transport strike or a large traffic accident. It’s about stopping the normal operation of the economy so things can’t go on like they are.”

The Northern Echo will be looking at some of projects tackling climate change in County Durham on Friday and Saturday.