Photo: Just Stop Oil

With UK’s next licensing round around the corner, activists demand a stop to new oil & gas

As the UK government puts the wheels into motion to kick off a new oil and gas licensing round to strengthen its energy security, environmental activists and supporters of Just Stop Oil have set up roadblocks, demanding a halt to new fossil fuel projects and investments in the UK. These activists claim that the answer to tackling the energy and climate crises lies in ramping up renewable investments.

Just Stop Oil reported on Tuesday that around 60 supporters have disrupted traffic in Westminster for the fourth day in a row to demand an end to new oil and gas, chanting “no new oil” outside Downing Street before marching on the road towards Parliament Square where they established roadblocks by sitting in the road blocking all four sides. Some of the group members even glued themselves to the road. 

Alan Woods, a company director from Wigan, remarked: “I’m a supporter of Just Stop Oil because as a business owner I won’t have business left unless we pressure our government to stop all new oil and gas, invest in renewables and roll out insulation. The solution to the energy crisis and the climate crisis are the same – we’re at a crossroads. The government must make the right choice. As a business owner of over 40 years I’ve seen a lot of challenges, but the climate and energy crisis is the most important issue of our time; that’s why I have to be here when I should be back in Wigan running my business.”

Furthermore, all the actions undertaken this month are timed to coincide with the planned launch of a new oil and gas licensing round by the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) during which over 100 new licences for oil and gas projects are likely to be awarded. In addition, the UK recently decided to lift the moratorium on shale gas production and compounded this further with plans to accelerate various energy projects, including five oil and gas developments: Murlach, Cambo Phase 1, Talbot multi-well subsea tie-back, Affleck redevelopment, and Victory.

Moreover, Just Stop Oil pointed out that the NSTA’s chief executive said on Monday, 3 October 2022, that a number of gas projects in the southern North Sea will be fast-tracked, although, “this will do nothing to reduce the UK’s dependence on imported fossil fuels.” However, the UK government did underscore last month that energy security sits alongside emissions reduction goals, thus, the UK will be performing a balancing act by also embarking on scaling up several carbon capture and storage (CCS)hydrogen, and offshore wind projects.

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Anna Holland, a student at Newcastle University, commented: “People need to understand that we are not criminals. We are peacefully demanding that our government ends its unlawful genocide and protects its people – where is the crime in that? When asked why I would risk my future with arrest and a criminal record, I always reply: what future? If I don’t take peaceful action to demand change, I don’t see a future for myself or people of my generation.” 

Additionally, the activists’ occupation of Westminster comes against a background of an energy price hike on 1 October, which Just Stop Oil interprets to mean that almost 8 million households are expected to fall into “fuel poverty” by 1 April 2023, while energy companies make “massive” profits. “Our Prime Minister has made it clear that she has no plan to deal with the crisis that does not involve further suffering for the most vulnerable and tax giveaways for the rich,” added Just Stop Oil in its statement.

“This is not a one day event, this is an act of resistance against a criminal government and their genocidal death project. Our supporters will be returning – today – tomorrow- and the next day – and the next day after that – and every day until our demand is met – no new oil and gas in the UK. We will not stand by while everything we know and love is wilfully destroyed. We do this because it is the right thing to do and so we have a duty, a responsibility to continue,” concluded Just Stop Oil.

Supporters of Just Stop Oil have organised several events and activities to call for the phasing out of fossil fuels. Back in April 2022, hundreds of supporters of Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion blocked ten oil facilities near London, Birmingham and Southampton to demand that the UK government stops funding new fossil fuel projects in the UK.

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This was followed by staged protests a few weeks later in response to the government’s approval of Shell’s Jackdaw gas project located in the UK North Sea. All nine activists, that threw red paint over the Queen Elizabeth Building in Edinburgh, were expected to be arrested for criminal damage.