END FOSSIL FUELS NOW: Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil block oil facilities across the UK

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BREAKING: In the early hours of the morning, Extinction Rebellion UK and groups in the Just Stop Oil Coalition have blocked 10 major oil facilities across the UK. We will continue to block the sites until the UK Government agrees to end all new fossil fuel investments immediately.[1] 

Extinction Rebellion is blocking the Esso West Terminal near Heathrow Airport, and the Hamble and Hythe Terminals in Southampton. People are locked on at the entrances using large pink oil barrels filled with concrete, with the words ‘END FOSSIL FUELS NOW’ on them. Two people are up bamboo structures at the Esso Terminal and the Southampton locations each have one of the iconic Extinction Rebellion boats blocking the entrances with people locked to them. At the Esso terminal in London, 4 people have climbed on top of an oil silo and have hung large banners that say ‘JOIN US – LONDON APRIL 9’ and ‘END FOSSIL FUELS’.

Scores of people sat in the road to block oil tankers from leaving each site, while others climbed on top of oil tankers.

The action is taking place at a crucial time: The UK 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.[2] As war wages in Ukraine – a war that Christiana Figueres describes as being “financed by those in the West who import Russian oil and gas” – governments around the world are making plans to get off Russian oil and gas at speed.[3] 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. 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.[4]

Extinction Rebellion is here to say: Not in our name. 

Clare Farrell, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, said: “Today the climate movement is asking you to pay attention, to join the dots on environmental destruction, the peril faced by our world family and the gross profiteering that is trying to cancel the future of humanity. 

“The dots are being joined for us all in the current context, from the wars fuelled by fossil fuel money, the blatant global racism on show in the response to the refugee crises, the exacerbating inequalities in the cost of living crisis, and energy companies shamelessly making record profits from the plight of the ordinary person. It’s predicted that in just a matter of months 1 in 4 people in the UK will be unable to pay their energy bills. The Gillet Jaune had a catchphrase – end of the month, end of the world, same struggle. 

“It is now clear in the UK too, we’re being ripped off, our future is being burned, sold, decimated and all the while our government sits back doing nothing to help ordinary people. Enough of the lies, deceit and deadly political failure. Only a few months ago our leaders were crying in Glasgow because they had failed the world, now they are seeking to bend the rules of physics to meet their political project and give oil and gas companies a pass. We know it won’t work, and it’s too late for denial and delay.” 

The blockades come just over a week before the Rebellion begins in London on April 9th.[5] For anyone watching the blockades over the coming days, we call on everyone who wants to bring an end to the fossil fuel economy to go to Hyde Park at 10am on April 9th 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 licences, end fossil fuel subsidies now.

The government is making a choice to continue its addiction to fossil fuels as war wages in Ukraine, instead of accelerating the transition to a renewable led future. They could choose not to. Just a few months on from the “last chance” of COP26, Boris Johnson now claims the current crisis demands a “climate change pass”.[6] 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.[7][8] The UK is also set to approve licenses for 40 new fossil fuel projects.[9]

The recent IPCC report tells us in no uncertain terms that the window is closing on adaptation, let alone mitigation.[10] The Environment Agency put it bluntly in its October 2021 report: Adapt or Die.[11] Breakdown is happening in a way that isn’t allowing time for adaptation. According to the UN Secretary General, staying on fossil fuels will cause an atlas of human suffering and ‘delay means death’.[12][13]

All of this is taking place despite recent polling showing that the UK public wants climate action now in face of the energy crisis.[14] As fossil fuel multinationals use the war in Ukraine to lobby for new extraction, they are also getting huge tax breaks, while its expected that 1 in 4 people in the UK will not be able to pay their bills by September.[15][16] 

But more UK extraction won’t help ordinary people with rising energy costs. The government’s own advisors, The Climate Change Committee, said: “Any increases in UK extraction of oil and gas would have, at most, a marginal effect on the prices faced by UK consumers in future,”[17] More drilling in the North Sea will not provide the UK with a secure supply of affordable energy.[18] 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 UK has pledged to be net zero – before it produced anything we could use in our homes. Even the Energy Secretary has admitted this won’t address the cost-of-living crisis.[19] It won’t help with the war in Ukraine. It won’t give us energy security.[20]

Former deputy director of the UK’s National Crime Agency and director of plan B, Tim Crosland, said: “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. The government is prioritising 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. The Government has no democratic mandate to use the war as a pretext to destroy the conditions which make the planet habitable. It is people’s duty to intervene to protect each other. They are exploiting public fear and disorientation at a time of crisis to advance corporate-friendly policies incapable of attracting democratic support.”

All the more, we are not preparing the workforce for the transition away from fossil fuels, leaving them vulnerable to shocks. Extinction Rebellion Youth are blocking the Fawley refinery to hold Exxon to account for their hand in the destruction to communities in the Global South, and to stand with workers who are planning to strike for better pay on 8th April.[21] The strike is planned due to Exxon offering a mere 2.5% pay rise to staff, despite Exxon’s profits in 2021 topping an eye-watering £6.75 billion. The young people held banners calling for a just transition for workers as well as the cost of the living scandal to be paid for with the excessively high profits of oil and gas companies. 

Swallow, 20, from Extinction Rebellion Youth, said: 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. 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.”

A worker at the Esso terminal in London said to an XR protestor this morning, “Good on you love, this has got to happen, fossil fuels have to end”.

Decarbonising is not unaffordable even according to the UK’s own Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR)[22]. We should and could have been investing in renewables, heat pumps, home insulation, public transport, and the green economy for decades. As the OBR has said, these policies will create thousands of jobs and save billions of pounds for the UK public.[23] But the Government has been actively blocking them, enriching fossil fuel executives and oil state autocrats and subsidising climate breakdown instead.[24]

Rev Helen Burnett from Extinction Rebellion, said: “Compared to the horrific bloodshed in Ukraine, the fight for 1.5˚C may seem abstract, but it is, in reality, all too real. It is the fight for all those on the frontline of the climate crisis, in particular our children and our young people and the majority of the world’s population in the Global South. It is the fight for a peaceful and organised international community, it is the fight for the story of humanity and the fight for all those whom we love.

“We, the general public of the UK, are strong and resilient in times of crisis and will be ready to pull together to support each other as we roll up our sleeves and chip in to do our bit to make the change we need. But people deserve to have a say in what comes next. As the government is unwilling to do the right thing, ordinary people should be given a say in how we transition away from fossil fuels. That’s why XR calls for a Citizen’s Assembly. Your next door neighbour or your local shop keeper participating in a Citizen’s Assembly would be far more trustworthy than this government.”

NOTES TO EDITORS

[1] https://juststopoil.org/

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-60943192

[3] https://www.globaloptimism.com/blog/a-crucial-choice-to-make

[4] Half the population of the continent of Africa could be displaced within the next eight years: https://www.climate-refugees.org/spotlight/2022/3/3/ipcc-africa#:~:text=For%20context%20the%20entire%20population,record%20breaking%20droughts%20even%20today.

[5] Rebellion on April 9th: https://extinctionrebellion.uk/next-uk-rebellion/

[6] https://www.netzerowatch.com/boris-johnsons-climate-change-pass-for-natural-gas-welcomed/

[7] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/energy-oil-gas-ukraine-boris-johnson-b2035408.html

[8] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/boris-johnson-saudi-oil-executions-b2037442.html

[9] https://neweconomics.org/2021/10/40-new-uk-fossil-fuel-projects-emitting-triple-the-uks-annual-emissions-could-be-approved-by-2025

[10] IPCC key takeaways: https://www.reuters.com/markets/commodities/key-takeaways-ipcc-report-climate-impacts-adaptation-2022-02-28/

[11] https://www.cityam.com/adapt-or-die-warns-uk-environment-agency-as-iea-cautions-worlds-coal-reliance/

[12] https://www.politico.eu/article/landmark-climate-report-details-an-atlas-of-human-suffering/

[13] https://www.reuters.com/business/cop/delay-means-death-un-climate-report-urges-immediate-drastic-action-2022-02-28/

[14] Polling says the UK public want faster action on climate as the energy crisis bites: https://www.newstatesman.com/environment/climate/2022/03/exclusive-polling-brits-want-more-climate-action-as-energy-prices-bite

[15] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/oct/30/shell-and-bp-paid-zero-tax-on-north-sea-gas-and-oil-for-three-years

[16] 1 in 4 people wont be able to pay their energy bills: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/about-us1/media/press-releases/more-than-14-million-unable-to-afford-octobers-energy-hikes/

[17] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/mar/07/johnson-hints-oil-and-gas-output-must-rise-to-wean-uk-off-russian-supplies

[18] https://upliftuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Uplift-brief_Energy-Security-and-North-Sea-Oil-and-Gas.pdf

[19] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2022/02/28/fracking-not-answer-energy-crisis-insists-kwasi-kwarteng/

[20] https://upliftuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Uplift-brief_Energy-Security-and-North-Sea-Oil-and-Gas.pdf

[21] https://www.unitetheunion.org/news-events/news/2022/march/petrol-stations-facing-disruption-as-workers-fight-for-a-fair-wage-from-filthy-rich-exxon-at-southampton-oil-refinery/?fbclid=IwAR3xKxi_Iwy5XZdg68E6r38Hp5M6X7-qG1y-QwJTwTEyfdWL5Vgbys-cRRk

[22] https://obr.uk/about-the-obr/what-we-do/

[23] https://obr.uk/docs/dlm_uploads/Fiscal_risks_report_July_2021.pdf

[24] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/sep/21/britain-energy-crisis-conservatives-insulate-homes

A few facts on the oil industry:

In an article published by Unearthed, it was revealed that, in 2021, the UK oil and gas industry reached a record high in carbon emissions, an increase of 15% compared to 2020. This is due in part because of pipeline outages to refineries. In fact, approximately 20% of oil is delivered to refineries from production sites via pipelines

In 2020, fossil fuel companies spent £7.1 million on 25,147 greenwashing facebook adverts,  highlighting their investments in renewable energy and promoting natural gas as a sustainable energy source. Just over half of this spending came from one company: ExxonMobil.

The UK oil and gas industry is extremely carbon intensive due to the flaring carried out at refineries. Flaring is the burning of unwanted natural gas into the atmosphere, and is usually carried out to save money by getting rid of gas which is considered to be too unprofitable to transport [3]. This is done frequently, for example, at Fawley oil refinery.​​​​​​

Shell’s profits for 2021 overall rose to $19.3bn compared with $4.85bn the year before, in part due to strong earnings from shipping liquified natural gas (LNG) on the international market amid a global squeeze on gas supplies.

A few facts on Hamble Terminal:

Hamble oil terminal is currently owned by BP. It was opened in 1924, and imports jet and ground fuels, and exports crude oil.

On March 28th, Energy Vice published an article stating that BP’s climate targets to “set a net zero ambition covering operations, production and sales by 2050 or sooner” – so to reduce it’s absolute emissions – only account for 1/5 of the companies total greenhouse gas emissions. Importantly, its targets do not take into account its material sales. Global Climate Insights has estimated that oil and gas products will still account for 91% of BP’s sales by 2050.

In an article by Unearthed, it was revealed that BP used money from a “low carbon transition” fund to buy shares in companies finding new ways to find and use fossil fuels. Furthermore, on the edge of the largest known cold-water reef in the world along the coast of West Africa, BP is developing a new gas field.

A few facts on Hythe Oil Terminal:

Hythe oil terminal is part of Fawley oil refinery, owned by oil and gas company ExxonMobil. ExxonMobil has known about the devastating effects of fossil fuel production on the environment for over 40 years, and concluded in 1979 that production “will cause dramatic environmental effects”, saying that “the potential problem is great and urgent”. However, instead of acting responsibly on this knowledge, ExxonMobil spent tens of millions of pounds funding climate denial and misinformation. A senior ExxonMobil lobbyist recently admitted that the company was aggressively fighting against climate science. One example of this is when ExxonMobil ran a behind the scenes US lobbying campaign against legislative efforts to restrict the toxic PFAS “forever chemicals”.

Additionally, Exxon is being legally challenged by communities in Guyana and Indonesia. In Indonesia, villagers of the Aceh Province have finally reached the courts in claiming justice for the tortures of dozens of Indonesian peasants at the hands of Exxon-hired armed guards: for 20 years, Exxon has slowed down justice for these families that saw family members maimed in the name of fossil fuel profit. 

In Guyana, scientists and youth have filed a constitutional case on the grounds that Exxon’s expansion of oil extraction in Guyanese territory violates the right to a healthy environment and the rights of future generations.

Fawley refinery is now the largest oil refinery in the United Kingdom, and one of the most complex refineries in Europe. With a capacity of 270,000 barrels (43,000 m3) per day, Fawley provides 20 percent of the UK’s refinery capacity. [16]

A few facts on the West London Oil Terminal:

The West London oil terminal is owned by Esso, a subsidiary of the Exxon Mobil corporation. In 2021, Esso was granted a Development Consent Order by the Secretary of State to replace and expand 97km of underground aviation fuel pipeline to carry 40% more fuel across the South East of the UK; however Exxon can continue to use the old pipeline too enabling a potential 140% increase in capacity for at least the next 20 years.

ABOUT EXTINCTION REBELLION

Time has almost entirely run out to address the ecological crisis which is upon us, including the 6th mass species extinction, global pollution, and increasingly rapid climate change. If urgent and radical action isn’t taken, we’re heading towards 4˚C warming, and the societal collapse and mass loss of life that that implies. The younger generation, racially marginalised communities and the Global South are on the front-line. No-one will escape the devastating impacts.

Extinction Rebellion believes it is a citizen’s duty to rebel, using peaceful civil disobedience, when faced with criminal inactivity by their Government.

Extinction Rebellion’s key demands are:

  1. Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
  2. Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
  3. Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

What Emergency? | Extinction Rebellion in Numbers |This Is Not A Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook 

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