M25 protesters: Who are Insulate Britain and why are they causing traffic chaos?

·5 min read

WATCH: Dozens arrested after protestors block M25 again

Commuters on some of Britain's busiest stretches of motorway have faced travel chaos after protestors blocked them to bring attention to the climate change crisis.

Dozens of activists from Insulate Britain have been arrested following the protests on three sections of the M25 across several days. 

The group is calling for the government to take action on home insulation as part of efforts to combat climate change.

Protestors locking sections of the M25 have caused huge queues of traffic. 

Insulate Britain climate activists block a slip road from the M25 at Junction 25 as part of a campaign intended to push the UK government to make significant legislative change to start lowering emissions on 15th September 2021 in Enfield, United Kingdom. The activists, who wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on 13th August, are demanding that the government immediately promises both to fully fund and ensure the insulation of all social housing in Britain by 2025 and to produce within four months a legally binding national plan to fully fund and ensure the full low-energy and low-carbon whole-house retrofit, with no externalised costs, of all homes in Britain by 2030 as part of a just transition to full decarbonisation of all parts of society and the economy. (photo by Mark Kerrison/In Pictures via Getty Images)
Insulate Britain has been blocking various stretches of the M25 as part of a campaign to urge the government to insulate all homes. (Getty)

Who are Insulate Britain? 

Insulate Britain are a group of climate change activists reportedly launched by members of Extinction Rebellion, calling itself "a new group demanding that the government gets on with the job of insulating Britain's homes".

The group is demanding that the government insulates every house in the UK, urging it to make significant changes to the law to lower emissions.

The activists have written to Boris Johnson demanding that ministers immediately promise to fully fund and ensure the insulation of all social housing in Britain by 2025. 

Traffic is queued on the M25 after climate activists from Insulate Britain block a slip road as part of a new campaign intended to push the UK government to make significant legislative change to start lowering emissions on 13th September 2021 in Godstone, United Kingdom. The activists, who wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on 13th August, are demanding that the government immediately promises both to fully fund and ensure the insulation of all social housing in Britain by 2025 and to produce within four months a legally binding national plan to fully fund and ensure the full low-energy and low-carbon whole-house retrofit, with no externalised costs, of all homes in Britain by 2030 as part of a just transition to full decarbonisation of all parts of society and the economy. (photo by Mark Kerrison/In Pictures via Getty Images)
Insulate Britain's protests have caused travel chaos on some of the country's busiest routes. (Getty)

It is also calling for the government to produce within four months a legally-binding national plan to fully fund and ensure the full low-energy and low-carbon whole-house retrofit, with no externalised costs, of all homes in Britain by 2030. 

It says the step will contribute to a move towards the "decarbonisation" of society and the economy.

Insulate Britain initially appeared to have a small following on social media, with only a few hundred followers on Facebook and Twitter but that has grown following the protests. 

Why is Insulate Britain protesting? 

In a previous letter, Insulate Britain said if the government didn't take action on its demands, then further action would be taken. 

That action is the current protests on stretches of the M25.

It said in a statement on Wednesday morning, the group said: "We demand credible action now.

"Proper jobs for hundreds of thousands of people to start the first real step - to insulate all the homes of this country - which, pound for pound, gives us the biggest reduction in carbon emissions.

"It is a total no-brainer and yet this government refuses to get on with the job. This is criminal negligence."

Insulate Britain climate activists are pictured glued onto a slip road from the M25 at Junction 25 as part of a campaign intended to push the UK government to make significant legislative change to start lowering emissions on 15th September 2021 in Enfield, United Kingdom. The activists, who wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on 13th August, are demanding that the government immediately promises both to fully fund and ensure the insulation of all social housing in Britain by 2025 and to produce within four months a legally binding national plan to fully fund and ensure the full low-energy and low-carbon whole-house retrofit, with no externalised costs, of all homes in Britain by 2030 as part of a just transition to full decarbonisation of all parts of society and the economy. (photo by Mark Kerrison/In Pictures via Getty Images)
Some protestors have glued themselves to the road as part of the protest. (Getty)

What form have the protests taken? 

Activists from the group have been blocking sections of Britain's busiest motorway, the M25, across several days, gluing themselves to the road.

On Monday five junctions of the motorway were blocked, causing queues that affected tens of thousands of drivers.

On Wednesday, Insulate Britain said 89 of its members had taken part in action.

They targeted Junction 23 for South Mimms in Hertfordshire and the main carriageway from Junction 8 at Reigate to Junction 9 at Leatherhead, both in Surrey.

What are the police doing about it? 

Dozens of protestors have been arrested across several days.

The Metropolitan Police said it cleared Junction 25 of protesters, arresting 14 for obstructing the public highway, including three who had glued themselves to the road or each other.

It said a further three people had been arrested on suspicion of organising the protest. 

In a statement, the force said specialist equipment and trained officers were needed to remove the activists glued to the road, and the time it had taken could have been spent policing communities in London. 

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 15:  Motorists argue with activists as protesters from the Insulate Britain protest group block a major roundabout near the Dartford crossing and M25 on September 15, 2021 inDartford, England. Several people have been arrested after activists from Insulate Britain blocked junctions on the M25 for the second time this week. The group were protesting against the “lack of progress” in effectively insulating homes in Britain. (Photo by Guy Smallman/Getty Images)
Angry motorists were spotted remonstrating with protestors after facing hours of queues. (Getty)

Surrey Police said it had helped the Metropolitan Police and had made 32 arrests, while Hertfordshire Police said it had arrested 18 people after trying to engage with the group. 

Kent Police said it had arrested 21 people.

Footage of officers offering the protestors help and asking if they are in any "discomfort" has been shared online, but the Assistant Constable Chris Noble, from the National Police Chiefs’ Council, defended the stance, saying officers were always working to act proportionately and find a balance in how they dealt with protests.

How have other people reacted to the Insulate Britain protests? 

The government has suggested that the protests are counter-productive.

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: "These actions are not only highly disruptive to those going to work and transporting vital goods, but are putting lives at risk on a busy motorway.

"Not to mention the resulting traffic delays will only add to vehicle emissions."

AA president Edmund King said: "Whilst most people understand the need to take action on climate change, these motorway blockade tactics are just backfiring as they are alienating the working public stuck in this chaos and subsequently pumping out more emissions."

He said: "Essential deliveries, emergency services, people missing hospital and business appointments are all hit by these blockades."

Are more Insulate Britain protests planned?

The group has previously warned that its action is "just the start" and will continue "until the government makes a meaningful commitment to insulate Britain's 29 million leaky homes", so it is likely there could be more protests to come.

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