‘Bang out of order’ — London mayor calls on PM to demand Trump take action on climate

In an interview with Unearthed, Sadiq Khan refused to rule-out airport expansion outside Heathrow, criticised law-breaking climate protesters and conceded to flaws in efforts to reduce air pollution

The Mayor of London has urged the Prime Minister to challenge Donald Trump on America’s stance on climate change, saying she should tell him to “stop governing in self-interest.”

In an interview with Unearthed, Sadiq Khan – who has clashed with the US president over floating babies and terror attacks – said the UK must try to convince Trump that he’s “bang out of order” on climate change — which he regularly mocks, as well as scrapping policies designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“I think one of the things the prime minister has to do, she has to raise the issue of climate change and the American stance on climate change.”

“We have a special relationship with them, they’re our closest allies. It’s like a best mate, your expectations from your best mate are different from your expectations from an ordinary mate or an acquaintance.

“And that means we should be able to with honesty and candour say to them listen, you’ve got it wrong on this. Of course we will always stand shoulder to shoulder with you in times of adversity, we’re gonna carry on being close allies but listen, you’re bang out of order here, you’re wrong. The science shows that you’re wrong. And you’ve gotta stop governing in self-interest.”

Trump is making a three-day state visit to the UK, including a meeting with the British royal family at Buckingham Palace.

Extinction Rebellion

The Unearthed interview took place just weeks after environmental activist group Extinction Rebellion brought the capital to a standstill with its week-long occupation of Waterloo Bridge and three other sites, resulting in more than a thousand arrests.

Khan, who declared a climate emergency in December, months before Parliament voted for the symbolic declaration, was mocked on Twitter for releasing what critics called a tone-deaf statement calling for an end to the protest and a return to ‘business-as-usual’.

Having made the environment – particularly air pollution – one of his signature issues, the Mayor was visibly irked by the Twitter backlash, arguing that “the actions of this administration since 2016 show that business as usual isn’t acceptable.”

Yet he doubled down on his criticism of XR’s tactics, accusing the group of diverting scarce police resources from the violent crime wave with which the city is grappling.

“It is a fact that on most days during the protest, there were between 1000 and 1500 police officers policing the protests, when they would otherwise have been policing communities to make sure there’s not an increase in violent crime. We also know that in holiday periods, violent crime goes up, knife crime goes up.  These officers were doing 12-hour shifts, cancelling rest days, cancelling holidays, and it’s important for us to realise they need respite.”

He stressed that though “protest is very important in a democracy,” recalling his active participation on the People’s Vote march earlier this year, but that “it’s got to be peaceful and it’s got to be lawful” though he did cite the efforts of the suffragettes as an inspiration.

“When you’re the Mayor of London, one of your jobs is of course to address the climate emergency, and I’ve been doing that for the last 3 years, but also realise that the police have a huge role to play in keeping our city safe, and I’m not going to resile from being an advocate for our police having the resources they need, at the same time I’m going to be their advocate to say listen, these guys need a rest, these officers do a huge amount of importance for our city and actually one of the concerns that Londoners have is making sure they’re focused towards knife crime and other such issues.”

A spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion told Unearthed: “Business as usual cannot be allowed to continue. In order to address the climate and ecological emergency, we have to transform the way we approach politics. We have to restructure our entire economic system and seriously interrogate the beliefs on which it is based.

“It was good to meet with the Mayor of London following the action we took in April. The climate and ecological emergency is beginning to focus the minds of politicians on both a local and a national level. Local councils have led the way with declarations of climate emergency and more ambitious targets are finally being adopted. But let us be totally clear: our political class are way behind the general public on this issue.”

Climate emergency

Khan further risked the wrath of protesters by continuing to support airport expansion even during a climate emergency.

Khan is a well-known opponent of the 3rd runway at Heathrow airport, having joined a legal challenge to block it on the ground of air quality.

But the Mayor has been vocal in support of adding a runway to Gatwick airport, something which critics argue would exacerbate the climate emergency.

Despite his December declaration, Khan declined to rule out any airport expansion.

“It depends,” he said, “we’ve got to make sure that we aren’t unrealistic in saying people aren’t going to fly, people are going to fly. So, you know, we’ve got to make sure that we have the best possible safeguards in place to make sure that airports that we’ve currently got abide by the rules that they have and we have the most stringent rules to make sure that we haven’t got additional carbon caused by aviation.”

He preferred to turn his attention to neglected sectors like emissions from buildings, an issue on which he claims the central government has tied his hands.

“One of the things I’m lobbying the government for is to devolve to us the powers to set minimum energy efficiency standards, give us the powers over the River Thames. We’d like more say over aviation as well.”

Problems with ULEZ

The mayor also conceded that his efforts to reduce air pollution – another target of protestors – are far from perfect, though in this case he went on to blame central government.

When Unearthed raised that a bunch of diesel car models that are ostensibly of Euro 6 standard – and therefore permitted to drive in central London without paying a fee – have been shown to pollute above legal limits, he said the rules “had to be fairly crude” because “the government have declined any assistance.”

Last year Unearthed identified dozens of diesel car models that are exceeding air pollution limits despite being classified as ‘Euro 6’ and therefore permitted to drive in the ULEZ.

“I’m not saying that ULEZ is a finished product. There’ll be iterations of ULEZ, there’ll be improvements that will involve not least an opportunity given to us by the extension to outer london and inner London, up to the north circular and south circular.”