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Hundreds of climate campaigners engaged in direct action at 10 major oil facilities across the United Kingdom in the early hours of Friday morning, vowing to continue blocking the sites until the U.K. government agrees to immediately end new fossil fuel investments—which scientists have said is necessary to avoid the planetary emergency’s most disastrous outcomes.
The protests, located at terminals near London, Birmingham, and Southhampton, were organized by Extinction Rebellion U.K. and the Just Stop Oil coalition. Operations were reportedly stopped at four sites, and more than a dozen people were arrested.
“People are locked on at the entrances using large pink oil barrels filled with concrete, with the words ‘END FOSSIL FUELS NOW’ on them,” Extinction Rebellion U.K. noted in a statement. “Scores of people sat in the road to block oil tankers from leaving each site, while others climbed on top of oil tankers.”
On social media, the group said: “Fossil fuels are killing the planet and funding war. Big Oil makes record money while hitting us with [a] cost of living crisis. So today, we shut them down.”
Speaking from the Buncefield Oil Depot with his neck locked to a fuel tanker, 31-year-old carpenter Cameron Ford explained why he decided to participate in Friday’s blockade.
“We refuse to be the last generation, we refuse to be bystanders.”
“The mainstream media are going to do their best to make us look like nutcases, and that is gonna be the message they’re peddling, but what is nuts is the government are refusing to listen to the science,” said Ford. “If we continue with fossil fuels, then we’re… not gonna have a planet that we can live on. It’s already happening.”
“We’re at this juncture right now,” Ford continued. “We’re seeing what funding Russia through buying their oil and gas has done, and people feel terrible about that now.” And yet, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s response was to head “straight over to Saudi Arabia… just trying to get tied in with them.”
“They’re just not getting it,” said Ford, “and other than putting my body on the line in this way, if they can’t listen to science, then I don’t know what else to do. I’m not nuts. I’m just trying to use my body and risk my civil liberty to try and stop them taking our future from us all.”
Louis McKecknie, a 21-year-old from Weymouth who last month zip-tied his neck to a goalpost at Goodison Park, Everton’s football stadium, as part of the Just Stop Oil campaign, told The Guardian: “I don’t want to be doing this, but our genocidal government gives me no choice. They know that oil is funding Putin’s war and pushing millions of people into fuel poverty while energy companies reap billions in profits. They know that to allow more oil and gas extraction in the U.K. is suicidal and will accelerate global heating.”
“It means millions dying of heat stress, losing their homes, or having to fight for food,” said McKecknie. “This is the future for my generation, I stop when oil stops.”
According to Extinction Rebellion U.K., “The action is taking place at a crucial time: The U.K. public is waking up this morning to a 54% rise in the energy price cap, which the Citizens’ Advice charity say will leave millions of people unable to pay their bills.”
As Moscow’s fossil fuel-funded war on Ukraine continues, “governments around the world are making plans to get off Russian oil and gas at speed,” said Extinction Rebellion U.K.
“For any chance of a livable future, the response to war in Ukraine can and must be integrated with the logic of urgent and radical action on the climate crisis.”
“However, instead of doing what’s necessary to move away from fossil fuels to align with Paris climate pledges, world leaders are choosing to appease oil companies and pursue extraction elsewhere,” the group added. “This is despite the recent IPCC report stating that staying on fossil fuels means that half the population of the continent of Africa could be displaced within the next eight years. These are the people and nations who have done the absolute least to cause the crisis.”
That report, which United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres described as an “atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership,” warned that humanity has a “brief and rapidly closing window” to avoid the worst effects of the crisis. Last year, the International Energy Agency made clear that meeting the Paris agreement’s target of limiting global warming to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels by the end of the 21st century requires halting all new investment in fossil fuel infrastructure and supply.
After Guterres lamented last month that the 1.5°C goal is “on life support,” researchers at the U.K.-based Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research estimated that rich countries must end oil and gas production entirely by 2034 to give the world a 50% chance of achieving it, and climate justice advocates continue to insist on the need for an ambitious clean energy transition.
Despite mounting evidence of the deadly impacts of fossil fuels, “Boris Johnson now claims the current crisis demands a ‘climate change pass,’” Extinction Rebellion U.K. continued. “The prime minister says he wants to ‘remove barriers’ to increased extraction of fossil fuels from the North Sea and has now gone begging Saudi Arabia to increase its oil supply. The U.K. is also set to approve licenses for 40 new fossil fuel projects.”
“All of this is taking place despite recent polling showing that the U.K. public wants climate action now in face of the energy crisis,” the group pointed out. “As fossil fuel multinationals use the war in Ukraine to lobby for new extraction, they are also getting huge tax breaks, while it’s expected that one in four people in the U.K. will not be able to pay their bills by September.”
Extinction Rebellion U.K. stressed that “more drilling in the North Sea will not provide the U.K. with a secure supply of affordable energy. It would mostly be exported and exploration for new gas supplies would take around thirty years to come into effect. So, even if the government were to license a new gas field today, it would likely be 2050—the year the U.K. has pledged to be net-zero—before it produced anything we could use in our homes.”
Tim Crosland, former deputy director of the U.K.’s National Crime Agency, said that “we are not facing a cost of living crisis, it’s a cost of living scandal.”
“The cost of living scandal and our dependence on petrostates for oil and gas are the consequence of our addiction to fossil fuels,” said Crosland. “The government is prioritizing political pandering and vested interests over the public good in decision making while fossil fuel companies exploit this moment to expand their reach. Protestors are not the problem, policy failure is.”
“For any chance of a livable future, the response to war in Ukraine can and must be integrated with the logic of urgent and radical action on the climate crisis,” he added. “The government has no democratic mandate to use the war as a pretext to destroy the conditions which make the planet habitable.”
Swallow, a 20-year-old from Extinction Rebellion Youth, said that “British workers and families should not bear the brunt of the energy crisis while oil and gas executives make insane profits. The public wants a transition that is rapid and fair, to support workers to retrain and start building a better future, but we’re being lied to daily by politicians who tell us we can’t afford to change, while supporting corporate interest over people’s lives and livelihoods.”
“It should come as no surprise that young people are choosing to step up and take action like this,” the activist continued. “Our futures are being sold and burned by the selfish few all while watching people’s lives being decimated in the Global South already, and the betrayal we feel runs deep. If people had been doing what we’re doing now 10 years ago maybe we wouldn’t be in this situation, but we are. So, now there’s nothing left for us to do but act because we refuse to be the last generation, we refuse to be bystanders.”
To “anyone watching the blockades over the coming days,” said Extinction Rebellion U.K., “we call on everyone who wants to bring an end to the fossil fuel economy to go to Hyde Park at 10 am on April 9 and join us in civil resistance until fossil fuel investments come to an end. We will be big and loud and impossible to ignore and we will return day after day until our immediate demand is met: No new fossil fuel investments, no new fossil fuel licenses, end fossil fuel subsidies now.”