Open Letter

Last month in Cambridge hundreds of people joined the climate action movement Extinction Rebellion in two die-ins, a demonstration outside the Guildhall, and a funeral march ending in a symbolic tree planting at Shire Hall. These actions were organised to draw attention to our unravelling biosphere and the ecological crisis that is leading inexorably to the extinction of a broad swathe of life.

A recent MET Office report states Cambridge will become a seaside town in just eighty years if sea levels continue rising, with thousands displaced. Today in Cambridge the air is polluted, the roads are congested and the region’s clean energy policies woefully insufficient. The county council, the Mayor and the district councils must now show the necessary leadership to change our local economy radically to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from all buildings, planned developments, and existing homes. They must swiftly encourage a transition away from petrol and diesel transport, and take a lead in reducing the impacts of consumption. We call on the University of Cambridge to divest immediately from fossil fuel companies and related investments. These changes are a small price to pay when set against the catastrophic consequences of climate breakdown.

We must act with relentless urgency to address climate breakdown. The sixth mass extinction is underway, produced by failing to live in harmony with the richness of life on this beautiful planet.The Living Planet Report this year documented a 60% global decline in vertebrate animals since 1970. Coral reefs, vital to the health of the oceans and coastal communities, are dying. We are poisoning the air we breathe and extreme weather events are killing thousands of people in heatwaves, fires, hurricanes, floods and rising sea levels. Climate breakdown compounds the devastating injustice already experienced by the poorest of the world.

The weight of scientific opinion, represented by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, tells us that we have a chance to mitigate this looming catastrophe, but only if we act now to completely transform our economies within the next 12 years. We cannot fritter away any of these precious 144 months.

We will not stand by and hand a poisoned chalice to our children and grandchildren, who will inherit the results of our neglect of this Earth. We are determined to act speedily and non-violently because we care for each other and the future. In our region, local governments, businesses, banks and corporations must end their denial and act decisively. We call on all of them and all our fellow citizens to join with us in declaring a climate emergency.

Dr Rowan Williams

Alice Guillaume, project manager of the Cambridge Sustainable Food Hub

Dr Alison Green, pro vice-chancellor, Arden University

Cambridge Carbon Footprint

Cambridge Zero Carbon Society

Dr Claire Wordley, University of Cambridge, Department of Zoology

Duncan Catchpole, managing director of the Cambridge Organic Food Co

Extinction Rebellion Cambridge

Elisabeth Whitebread, co-founder, Ocean Optimism

Jim 'Chisholm Trail' Chisholm, Cambridge transport campaigner

Linda Whitebread, convenor, 2G3S, Green groups in the Shelfords, Stapleford and Sawston

Terry Mcalister, ex-energy editor at The Guardian Facebook Twitter Instagram