Paul Kunert was recently in court, charged with breaching a Section 14 order at a Rebellion in September 2020. He was found guilty and received a six month conditional discharge and was ordered to pay £522 court costs. His defence summing up statement, published below, explains why he felt compelled to take action.
We are called to be keepers of the earth. I am called to be a keeper of the earth, of my neighbour, of all living things. As are you. As is every person in this court-room. It is our fundamental calling, our purpose as humans.
I have been seeking to follow the way of Jesus for many years now. I am compelled as a keeper of the earth. I am compelled by the command of Jesus (to love my neighbour). I am compelled to act: to stop the threat to life and livelihoods caused by the Government’s failure to act to stop climate change.
I’ve worked for 20 years in Africa and seen with my own eyes the precarious lives of those most affected by rising global temperatures; and I’ve heard from development agencies working all over the world that this is the most pressing problem faced by vulnerable communities. This is a real life, real world problem, affecting real people, right now. There is a direct connection between the impacts of rising temperatures, the action government here is failing to take, and my actions in Parliament Square last September to urge Government to act.
I have taken what action I can to reduce my own carbon footprint. We’ve installed an air source heat pump and solar panels; stopped flying; we have an electric vehicle; and we eat less meat. The fact is though that these changes alone will make no noticeable difference to rising temperatures. They will not noticeably help my neighbour. No, it is only by calling on government to act, and government taking action, that this crisis can be averted. My actions on 1 September were the only effective option available to me.
I have never been arrested before. I had no desire to be arrested. But having done all else reasonably within my power, I was compelled – by love of neighbour, of God’s creation, of the natural world, by justice, by necessity – to act as I did, in Parliament Square, on the day on which the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill was introduced to Parliament, in the hope that our Government, sitting just a hundred metres away, might take notice and act.
The prosecution has not successfully demonstrated that my actions were not necessary. In fact, it must surely be obvious to all in this room that my actions were necessary to prevent a far greater harm; and that they were both reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances.
I accordingly submit – in light of all that you have heard – that my actions were reasonable and proportionate, and, accordingly, that I am not guilty of the charge alleged.