It is time to use civil disobedience as a central tool in the fight for climate justice and to push politicians into action, a member of the Belgian Royal Family said.
In a radio interview, Belgium’s Princess Esmeralda said civil disobedience was a powerful tool to make the public conscious about political inaction in the face of the current climate and environmental crises.
“I think the urgency of the current climate crisis requires it completely, and it is a way to raise awareness, to have more results — since there have not been many at the political level,” the princess told RTBF.
Princess Esmeralda, the youngest child of King Leopold III and his spouse Lilian, Princess of Réthy, was speaking to the Francophone broadcaster from London, where she recently got arrested for taking part in a protest led by climate activist group Extinction Rebellion.
The 63-year-old princess, who works as a journalist and documentary filmmaker, was one of several arrested at the sitting on Trafalgar Square on Thursday 10 November and was released on Friday morning.
Questioned about her thoughts on the arrest, the princess said she was proud of it, since it had been the “objective” of her taking part in the demonstration.
“Young people have done incredible work, they have put the climate at the top of political agendas and they continue [their movement] with remarkable perseverance — but they cannot do it alone,” the princess said.
The princess, who lives in London, has been a vocal supporter of the youth movement for the environment and is an active campaigner for women’s and indigenous group’s rights.
During the interview, she said that the backlash that many young climate activists have been facing came from those who opposed the drastic systemic changes that were necessary to face climate change.
Princess Esmeraldas’ statements stand in contrast with the lack of response from the Royal Family in Belgium to the climate demonstrations, including one action which the Belgian branch of Extinction Rebellion explicitly addressed to King Philippe.
A subsequent demonstration organised as part of the group’s global call for an October Rebellion saw police violently crack down on protesters, leading to the opening of several investigations into some officers’ response.
The princess acknowledged that the movement for environmental justice gathered mostly white and middle to upper-class activists, and said minorities were more likely to fear the consequences of being arrested or a harsher reaction from police.
While, during the interview, Princess Esmeralda said more people from all walks of life, statuses and social backgrounds needed to join the movement for climate action, she refused to make a statement on the Royal Palace’s silence.
“I am not going to comment on that, I know that the king is very worried about climate and the environment, but it is something else for him to support a demonstration,” she said.