Swedish activist joins Fossil Free London to oppose new drilling in North Sea
Greta Thunberg, the 20-year-old Swedish climate activist, joined a protest against the UK government’s plans for new oil and gas licences in the North Sea on Saturday. She was among the demonstrators from Fossil Free London who gathered outside the Guildhall, where Prime Minister Rishi Sunak gave a speech on foreign policy at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet.
The protesters were objecting to the proposed expansion of the Rosebank oil field, which is located about 130 kilometres northwest of the Shetland Islands. The project, which is led by the Norwegian company Equinor, is expected to produce up to 300 million barrels of oil over its lifetime.
The activists argued that the Rosebank project would contribute to the climate crisis and undermine the UK’s commitments under the Paris Agreement. They carried banners saying “Rosebank will kill us” and “Stop Rosebank”, and chanted slogans such as “Every village stays” and “You are not alone”. They also banged pots, pans and drums to make noise and attract attention.
Police clash with protesters trying to reach the venue
The protest, which was attended by about 50 people according to the organizers and 15,000 according to the police, was met with a heavy police presence. Around 20 police officers formed a line to prevent the protesters from entering the venue, where Sunak was hosting hundreds of bankers and business leaders.
Some protesters tried to break through the police barriers and reach the edge of the mine and the village of Luetzerath, which is due to be demolished to make way for the project. The police used water cannons and batons to push them back, and arrested several people for trespassing and obstructing the highway.
The situation calmed down after dark, but some protesters remained outside the Guildhall to continue their demonstration. Some of them complained of what they said was excessive force by the police and the size of the police response.
Thunberg says the fate of Rosebank matters for the world
Thunberg, who rose to fame in 2018 when she started a school strike for the climate outside the Swedish parliament, said that the fate of Rosebank and the expansion of the North Sea oil and gas industry mattered for the whole world. She said that the UK, as one of the largest polluters and historical emitters of CO2, had a responsibility to lead by example and stop investing in fossil fuels.
She told The Associated Press that the UK government was selling the public a dangerous pipe dream by promising energy security through new oil and gas projects, which would only spell climate disaster and an insecure, warming world for everyone. She said that she wanted a liveable future and secure, affordable, renewable energy for all.
She also said that she was inspired by the people who were fighting for their homes and communities in the face of the Rosebank project. She said that she was there to show solidarity and support, and to amplify their voices.
Rosebank project sparks controversy and criticism
The Rosebank project has sparked controversy and criticism from environmental groups, local residents and politicians. The project, which was approved by the UK government in August 2023, is part of the government’s plan to “max out” the UK’s remaining oil and gas reserves and boost the economy.
However, critics say that the project is incompatible with the UK’s climate goals and the global effort to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. They say that the project would emit about 132 million tonnes of CO2 over its lifetime, which is equivalent to the annual emissions of 28 million cars.
They also say that the project would threaten the livelihoods and cultures of the people living in the affected areas, especially the islanders of Shetland and Orkney, who depend on fishing and tourism. They say that the project would increase the risk of oil spills, damage the marine ecosystem and harm the wildlife.
The project has also been challenged in court by the environmental group Greenpeace, which claims that the government failed to conduct a proper environmental assessment and public consultation before granting the licence. The case is expected to be heard in early 2024.