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A month before elections, Extinction Rebellion blocks Rue Belliard en masse to demand an immediate, EU-wide end to fossil fuel subsidies

On Saturday 4 May, an estimated 400 Extinction Rebellion activists from across Europe peacefully blocked Rue Belliard in Brussels to demand an immediate end to fossil fuel subsidies. As a demonstration began at 2pm in Jean Rey square, groups of activists approached the street from several directions with banners reading 'Stop Fossil Subsidies'. They began a sit-in on the tarmac, causing major traffic jams in the capital.

These acts of civil disobedience are part of a new, Europe-wide 'Stop Fossil Subsidies' campaign by the United for Climate Justice coalition. Extinction Rebellion Belgium has been blocking traffic every month since January. This time, XR was joined by around 250 activists from the Netherlands and several international groups who travelled to Brussels at this crucial time, one month before the Belgian and European elections on 9 June.

The activists are calling for an EU-wide end to fossil fuel subsidies and the implementation of a national emergency plan to transition to a flourishing, fossil-free economy that protects the most vulnerable and the ecosystem. Recalling the dire warnings of the vast majority of the world's climate scientists, the activists equate fossil fuel subsidies with crimes against humanity.

"A recent scientific review article predicts one billion deaths as a result of the climate crisis if nothing is done to prevent global warming from exceeding 2°C. At a time when human-made environmental devastation is threatening the habitability of the Earth, the obstinacy of the European institutions and national governments in subsidising fossil fuels amounts to a crime against humanity. Sooner or later, today's politicians will be held accountable for it”, said Alena Kahle, a spokesperson.

National and EU governments spend a total of at least 405 billion euros each year on subsidies to big fossil fuel companies - ten times more than is spent on climate policies. The Belgian government alone spent between €12.9 and 20 billion on fossil fuel subsidies in 2020. Direct subsidies amounted to 2.4% of Belgian GDP.

Ahead of the elections, the activists who united under the banner of Stop EU Fossil Subsidies warn of the vicious circle of the climate crisis, growing inequalities, and the rise of extremism. ‘The rapid deterioration of the climate crisis and human well-being will only exacerbate the disillusionment that feeds the far right. In turn, the far right will only add fuel to the climate crisis, leading us straight to ecological collapse and brutal dictatorship", said Xavier De Wannemaeker, a spokesperson.

XR points out that the climate crisis is only the tip of the iceberg of ecological collapse, citing the work of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, led by world-leading environmental scientist Johan Rockstrom. The SRC warns that radical action is urgently needed as humanity has already breached six out of nine planetary boundaries. Four of these, like biodiversity loss and the nitrogen crisis, now pose a greater threat to our survival than climate change.

“Stop EU Fossil Subsidies” asserts that deep systemic change towards a flourishing society rooted in a true democracy is the only remedy for the current social and ecological breakdown. According to them, the root cause is ideological. "The myths of infinite economic growth and the essential selfishness of human nature, two fundamental axioms of the pseudo-science of economics, are leading us straight to totalitarianism and collective suicide. To prevent this dystopia, we urge the political class to build a new socio-economic system based on participatory democracy that cares for the well-being of people and the ecosystem,” said Xavier De Wannemaeker.

Echoing the words of Frans Timmermans when he was Vice-President of the European Commission, Alena Kahle of Extinction Rebellion concluded: "Our children won't forgive us for our negligence when they go to war over food and water. We are all aware of the global ecological collapse unfolding before our eyes and we have all the means at our disposal to prevent its worst consequences. We call on all citizens to peacefully blockade the economy until the political class establishes a new socio-economic system based on participatory democracy and aimed at the well-being of the greatest number, not just the ultra-rich".

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XR Brussels (EN)